Soon after Sunil Mittal made the announcement about Airtel’s 100 million customers, he spoke with Manoj Gairola. Excerpts:
In 1995, did you think that you would become the largest telecom company in India?
No. I have to be honest. We were clear that we would become the largest company in North India. We called ourselves the Bell of North India. The turning point came in 2000 when we acquired JT Mobile, which had operations in South India. Then we started thinking in terms of the largest pan-India operator.
Why have you not been able to repeat the same success in retail business?
When we started telecom, we were a small company and were pushing one particular business. It was a passion.
Now the momentum is different. We are running them systematically. It is different. Therefore, it will take longer for the new businesses to stabilise.
What is your target of achieving next 100 million customers?
I think, we will acquire next 100 million new customers in less than three years. Two-and-a-half years will be an aggressive target.
Do you think the economic slowdown will have an impact on telecom growth?
Recession is a global phenomenon. I think if we keep our costs low, we will be able to achieve the growth.
What is good for Indian business — NDA, UPA or third front?
My view is that we need a stable government. What worries the business community is a weak coalition government.