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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Will it be Nikesh vs Mukesh in India's 4G wars?

N Madhavan, Hindustan Times   July 20, 2014
First Published: 21:13 IST(20/7/2014) | Last Updated: 21:19 IST(20/7/2014)

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio is set to usher in 4G services next year. Last week, I was tempted to say, it is now perhaps Nikesh vs Mukesh in India’s telecoms, after Nikesh Arora quit as chief business officer at Google Inc and headed to become vice-chairman of Japan's SoftBank where he starts in October.

Arora's career now has a double advantage in management bandwidth. He was previously in T- Mobile that makes him a solid player in telecoms, while a decade at Google makes him strong on the Internet.

Now, he was also an independent director from 2008 until March this year on the board of Bharti Airtel, and during this period, in October 2011, Bharti formed with SoftBank a 50-50 joint venture, Bharti SoftBank Holdings Ptd Ltd. SoftBank has since taken a write-down of that investment but remains a key player focused on India. Arora's SoftBank connections can be traced back to that venture.

Here is what Jon Russel wrote in the thenextweb.com in October 2011 when the venture was launched.

"SoftBank’s experience could massively help with the building of new infrastructure, the provision of new services such as 4G or LTE and other activity that is key to providing the benefits of Internet services to more of the Indian population."

SoftBank's founder-chairman Masayoshi Son said last week that Arora will "help define, implement and manage the company's global growth strategy."

My guess is that through the SoftBank route Nikesh Arora is all set to play in the Indian market as a globally experienced manager. Of course, given SoftBank's huge presence in the US and Japanese telecom markets, the entire world will be his playground.


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