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I'm new age entrepreneur: Mittal

Sunil Bharti Mittal may have made big bucks out of the mobile telephony, but the man says it was a saga of struggle.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 19:27 IST

Sunil Bharti Mittal may have made big bucks out of the mobile telephony revolution in India, but the man says it was a saga of struggle, fight and the "mother of all battles."

When he began his entrepreneurial venture in 1985, he was "ignored" and "laughed at" thereafter, before the "fight" erupted in the telecom sector leading to what he calls "mother of all battles" from which he came out "fairly successful," he said.

Sharing his thoughts with students and faculty of Indian Institute Management, Bangalore, at a convocation function, the Chairman and Group Managing Director of Bharti Enterprises said: "I am a new age entrepreneur. I believe I represent the changing face of India."

"When I came out of college in 1976, I was told by all my friends and people generally older and guiding me in my hometown in Ludhiana that the pole-positions...The grand-stand positions have already been taken up by those who mattered."

There were large business houses, and the public sector had a huge grip, he recalled. For a young, struggling entrepreneur with very little capital, who has just come out of college, the space was indeed very limited, he said.

"But somehow the heart was not willing to accept. And one had to push on and push forward with every little opportunity that one got in one's life."

Mittal said the period-- 1976 to 1985--was a period of great struggle, of great pain but one of great learning.

"Learning that I could not take form B-school because I went straight to business after university... I picked up on the streets. I learnt my lessons on the streets and at every opportunity, tried to assimilate, gather, absorb some of the practices that were required to create an enterprise."

He said he saw his first battle with "big boys" in 1985-86 when he first launched India's first push-button telephones. "My romance with telecom started in 1985."

"Mahatma Gandhi once said: `at first, they ignore you'; these were the times when I was being ignored."

"It's important that at this stage you be ignored. Because spotlight at an early time of your lifecycle does not give you any extra advantage but certainly puts you at a great disadvantage."

"Gandhiji said: 'then they laugh at you.'"

In 1992, Mittal said he applied for mobile licence -- India's first attempt to provide mobile telephone services.

"I felt we had the passion to deliver India's first mobile phone services. Many thought otherwise. We threw our hat in the ring."

He said 1993, 1994 and 1995 saw some major litigations around this area. First licence was awarded in 1995.

"Bharti got licence to provide mobile telephony in Delhi. People were still laughing. Because this was supposed to be a business with very deep pockets."