After taking Bharti Airtel to the pole position among telecom service providers in the country, the company’s CEO (international) Manoj Kohli now takes another big challenge. When he joined the company in 2003, Airtel had about 3 million subscribers; today there are 139 million.
The first CEO of Bharti, Kohli will now head the operations in 15 African countries. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Kohli discussed his Africa strategy. Excerpts.
Now that Bharti Airtel has become a true multinational, what do you view as the biggest challenge for you?
The biggest challenge is to build a global corporation, a global brand and a global leadership team. This is the first time an Indian consumer brand will be present in 20 countries. Airtel will be the first global brand.
We will build a team of 100 global leaders from India and Africa. They will be global leaders in the true sense. Their thinking and mindset will go beyond one country.
Another big challenge is to become the third-largest telecom service provider, from number five. I am confident we will achieve this in a few years. No challenge is insurmountable.
What is your action plan to make Bharti the market leader in Africa?
Our first priority is to understand customers. We have to understand why customers in Africa use only 70 –80 minutes per month, while in India customers use 500 minutes.
We get 6,500 professionals through this acquisition (of Zain). We have to motivate them. Then we have to make a business model for Africa. In next two months this will be in place.
We will also work closely with governments in all the 15 countries. Our agenda and the government agenda should be common. We hope the Airtel brand will be in Africa by September-October.