Why did you choose Hutchison-Essar?
Let me tell you that it was a hotly contested transaction with various foreign and domestic players in the fray. One of the prime considerations was picking up a company and partner where the interest of the customers and employees would also be protected and nurtured. Since Hutch has no operations in three of our biggest markets, they fit the criteria better than others. The highest standards of integrity, systems and processes practised by the combine convinced me to give it to them.
So, who else was in race?
I can't really comment, given that I was bound by a non-disclosure agreement, but you can guess that just about everyone was in the hunt.
I think the opportunity presented itself. We were in the strongest financial health. We have weathered many storms and challenges over these last 10 years. And this is not the first time that we planned something like this. In 2002 too, we tried a merger with Idea which unfortunately collapsed. I think the SEBI restrictions imposed on BPL after the alleged price rigging case set us back considerably in terms of resource raising endeavours, but now we seem to have surmounted all that.
What will you do with all this money?
Monetising this franchise which I have built assiduously over the last 10 years allows me to pursue new opportunities. We live in a new India, so many new opportunities have opened up over the last few years. It is too early to comment on what I will be doing next. But I think most importantly, this sale allows me my own space. I will now have my own brand identity which is going to be completely distinct of BPL. It is thus a new beginning and a new innings in my own right. But to come back to your question, I could enter retail, media, there are so many opportunities available.
The 10-year journey must have been interesting for here was a technocrat who entered a brand new space. What were the close encounters like over these last few years?
I think I leave behind a cellular industry which is in a far better shape than it was ever before. The havoc and scams are behind us in this sector and the stakeholders can look forward to an orderly environment without serial regulatory bombs going off.
What role did JM Morgan Stanley play in the sale?
Both Nimesh Kampani and his son Vishal have acted as friends and advisors for many years now. I believe they were instrumental in evolving my thoughts. I started out thinking I will bring in a strategic investor and hawk only 49 per cent, but increasingly I was convinced by the two of them that the timing was ideal. Let me add that leaving BPL Mobile, which I built with great passion and commitment, was not an easy decision. Keeping the emotional quotient aside, it was imperative that I make the right decision. Companies came and went in a fluid sector, but we persevered and succeeded.