Sunil Bharti: The Founder of ‘India’s First Smartphone Network’, once travelled on trucks to complete his assignments!

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Sunil Bharti Mittal is no news to any Indian’s business knowledge base.

The founder of India’s biggest telecom company Bharti AirTel is one of the biggest business magnates in the country and the entire Southern Asia.

But seldom can anyone imagine that the life of this famous billionaire corporate leader could have been so tough.

Sunil Mittal was born in Punjab to a moderate household.

His family’s annual income was Rs. 50,000 or even less. So to support his family, he started working at an age of 18 along with carrying on his high school.

After being able to fetch a loan he did his graduation from Punjab University.

Later, his father was elected as a Member of Loksabha, but soon became a patient of heart and fell on a complete bed rest.

As the responsibility of his entire family fell on his own shoulders, Mittal started taking freelance consignments when studying and due to lack of money, Mittal used to travel in trucks to complete those.

Sunil Bharti put in 16-18 hours of his work every day and stayed at really small and inexpensive hotels when he traveled.

But, then he realized that this work was not sustainable. So, with a sum of Rs. 20,000 that he had once borrowed from his father, he started his first business.

He became one of the first-generation entrepreneurs and his business dealt with production and supply of crankshafts for local bicycle manufacturers.

Then, after making some money he sold the business to a local firm of Mumbai.

In 1980, along with his brothers Rakesh Bharti Mittal and Rajan Bharti Mittal, he started an Import-Export Enterprise called Bharti Overseas Trading Company.

He was able to import thousands of Suzuki’s portable electric-power generators from Japan.

But suddenly, as the Indian Government imposed a ban importing of generators, his entire set-up went down to crap.

But Mittal had already noticed the incoming advancement of mobile technology in India, so in 1984, he started assembling the push-button phones.

IN 1983, THE GOVERNMENT IMPOSED A BAN ON THE IMPORT OF GENSETS. I WAS OUT OF BUSINESS OVERNIGHT. EVERYTHING I WAS DOING CAME TO A SCREECHING HALT. I WAS IN TROUBLE. THE QUESTION THEN WAS: WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT? THEN, OPPORTUNITY CAME CALLING. LITERALLY.

This was a landmark step in his career as this business replaced the bulky rotary dialer phones, which were used by the majority then.

Soon, the Bharti Telecom Limited (BTL) was incorporated with a technical tie up with Siemens AG for the manufacture of electronic push button phones.

In 1992, he successfully bid for one of the four mobile phone network licenses auctioned in India. The same year his father passed away of a major cardiac arrest.

Upon a year of mourning, Mittal regained his pace and in 1995, Bharti Cellular Limited (BCL) was finally formed to offer cellular services under the brand name AirTel.

Within a few years, AirTel became the first telecom company to cross the 2-million mobile subscriber mark.

It beat its most major competitor BSNL’s CellOne mobile services by becoming the biggest telecom company in India.

Our focus was to win customers for life by providing them an execeptional telecom exeperience.

-Sunil Mittal

With a present national GAS Rank #01, AirTel has still retained its position as the leading telecom brand in India and has an unbeatable reputation in terms of network coverage and quality standards.

The company has also been a pioneer in introducing new technologies like 3G and 4G LTE to the country.

Today, Sunil Mittal is the biggest name in the Indian telecom industry. He also holds a position as the chairman of Bharti Group of Industries which has been diversified in telecom, malls, real estate, insurance, food, agriculture and hospitality among other things.

For his outstanding contribution to the telecom industry, Mittal has been honored with Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 2007.