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Changes at the Top: Key movements in 2011

February 14, 2012
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Facing stiff competition and declining profits, telecom companies underwent major restructuring both in their business operations and management in 2011. To improve efficiency, Bharti Airtel first introduced a new organisational structure for its Indian and South Asian operations, followed by Reliance Communications (RCOM), Aircel and Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL), which aligned its business operations under a single brand, TATA DOCOMO. A key result of this restructuring exercise was a major churn in the leadership positions of various telecom companies.

The appointment of a full-time chairman and managing director (CMD) at Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) put an end to the leadership issues of the state-run operators. Among the new operators, Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited (SSTL) led the hiring spree as it expanded its operations across the country.

Meanwhile, following the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) directive to employ Indian officials in senior management positions, international telecom equipment vendors have appointed several key personnel to head their Indian operations.

tele.net tracks the movement of the top telecom officials during 2011...


Bharti Airtel

During 2011, Bharti Airtel inducted several personnel in various key positions. In March 2011, Ananda Mukerji, who previously served as the chief executive officer (CEO) and MD of Firstsource Solutions, moved to Bharti Enterprises as group director, business development. In the same month, N. Rajaram, who was working as vice-president (VP) at Hindustan Unilever, joined Airtel to head its mobile business marketing unit. Meanwhile, Jai Menon was promoted to the position of group director, information technology. Previously, he was serving as group chief information officer (CIO) at Bharti Enterprises and director, technology and customer service, Bharti Airtel.

In June 2011, Mukesh Bhavnani, group president, legal, Essar Group, joined Bharti Enterprises as the group’s general counsel and company secretary. He took over from Vijaya Sampath, who now serves as adviser to Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and group CEO, Bharti Enterprises. During the same month, Bharat Bambawale moved to Bharti Airtel as brand director from JWT. Also, Bharti Enterprises assigned the role of group chief financial officer (CFO) to Sarvjit Singh Dhillon, who will replace Manik Jhangiani in January 2012.

In mid-2011, Bharti Airtel significantly changed the organisational structure of its Indian and South Asian operations. As a result, two distinct customer business units focusing on the business-to-customer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) segments were created. The B2C unit, formed by combining businesses including mobile, telemedia and digital TV, caters to retail consumers, homes and small offices. It consists of consumer business and market operations. While K. Srinivas leads the entire consumer segment, market operations in India and South Asia are divided into three regions, each headed by an individual operations director. The northern, eastern and Bangladesh operations are headed by Ajai Puri; the southern and Sri Lankan operations are led by Vineet Taneja; and operations in the western region (along with the national distribution portfolio) are supervised by Raghunath Mandava. The B2B business unit continues to be led by Drew Kelton. Bharti Airtel has also appointed Rajiv Rajgopal and Shashi Arora as the CEO for the broadband/data and direct-to-home/media services verticals respectively.

In 2011, the operator announced some new appointments for the African region as well. Willie Ellis, who was previously working as managing executive at Vodacom South Africa, joined Airtel as the new product and innovation director for its Africa operations. Also, Salia Gbane was appointed as MD for Airtel’s Chad operations.


RCOM reorganised its wireless service operations in September 2011. As part of this, the company’s existing business units in the northern, southern and eastern regions were consolidated into a single entity. All support functions including customer services, IT operations, and networks and products were moved to the new services division, which is being led by Nilanjan Mukherjee. Mukherjee was previously heading RCOM’s operations in the northern region. Recently, Shamik Das, who had been working as CEO at S Tel, joined the company as joint president and chief operating officer (COO) for its wireless business. He will report to Syed Safawi, president, wireless business.

Besides, RCOM recruited two senior industry executives for its international business. Rory Cole, a former senior executive at Verizon, was appointed as president, carrier and internet services; and V.S. Gopi Gopinath, former chairman and CEO at AT&T India, was brought in as president and COO, enterprise of Reliance Globalcom.


In early 2011, the Tata Group announced top management changes for three companies – Tata Communications, TTSL and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Limited (TTML). N. Srinath, MD and CEO of Tata Communications, replaced Anil Sardana as MD of TTSL and TTML. Sardana  replaced Prasad Menon as MD, Tata Power. Vinod Kumar, president and COO of Tata Communications, and MD of Tata Communications International, took up Srinath’s position.

Meanwhile, Sunil Joshi, president of global enterprise solutions, Tata Communications, replaced Ajay Pandey as MD and CEO of Neotel (a South Africa-based telecom operator in which the Tata Group has a majority stake). Pandey was re-inducted into Tata Communications after completing five years with Neotel.

In July 2011, TTML appointed Katsuhiko Yamagata as director following the resignation of Koichi Takahara.

Recently, as part of a major restructuring exercise, TTSL integrated all its service offerings under a single brand – TATA DOCOMO. Prior to this, the brand was used only for the operator’s GSM-based mobile services. The restructuring will consolidate TTSL’s organisational assets – spectrum, retail touchpoints, digital footprint and consumer franchises – across various technology platforms. The move is aimed at improving operational efficiency and reducing costs.

Vodafone India

After the exit of Vodafone’s Indian partner Essar, Vodafone India appointed Colman Deegan as CFO in August 2011. Deegan replaced Steve Walters, who was appointed as CFO for its Qatar operations. Walters had been working as finance head at Vodafone India since 2010, following the departure of John Otty.

Idea Cellular

In April 2011, Himanshu Kapania took charge as the company’s MD, following Sanjeev Aga’s retirement after holding the position for five years. Aga, however, continues to be a director on Idea Cellular’s board. He later joined the board of Subex, an IT solutions provider, as an independent director. Ambrish Jain, director, operations at Idea Cellular, who was in charge of the northern and eastern circles, is currently serving as deputy CEO, a position left vacant by Kapania’s appointment.


In October 2011, Aircel aligned its businesses under two broad categories – operations and network. The operations division comprises the operator’s go-to-market strategy, branding exercise and subscriber additions, while the network division includes the active infrastructure segment. Aircel’s COO Gurdeep Singh leads the operations division, while Sudhir Mathur heads the network division. Both Singh and Mathur report to Sandip Das, CEO of Aircel and Maxis Communications.


The year 2011 marked the end of leadership issues for the state-owned operator. Following the retirement of Gopal Das, who was serving as director, human resource development (HRD) and acting CMD, A.K. Garg moved to the position of director, HRD, and served till November 2011. S.C. Misra, member, services, DoT, was given the additional responsibility of CMD, BSNL. Misra held this position till the appointment of Rakesh Kumar Upadhyay as the full-time CMD with effect from April 30, 2011.

Further, K.C.G.K. Pillai was nominated to head the finance division as director, finance, a position lying vacant for the past two years.

Later in the year, A.N. Rai was appointed as director of BSNL’s enterprise business. Prior to this, he was serving as chief general manager of the Orissa circle.


In December 2011, MTNL appointed A.K. Garg as CMD. Garg was previously serving as director, HRD, BSNL. He replaced acting CMD Kuldip Singh, who was given the additional responsibility following the resignation of R.S.P. Sinha in January 2010.

New entrants

Among the new entrants, a lot of activity was observed at SSTL as it announced several key appointments during 2011. In January 2011, Shankar Bali, CEO, Hutch-Sri Lanka, joined SSTL as COO for the Delhi NCR and Haryana regions. This was followed by the restructuring of the company’s top management in June 2011. Chief Marketing Officer Leonid Musatov was assigned the additional role of chief sales officer of MTS India. Moreover, SSTL appointed COOs for various circles of operations. Atul Joshi is responsible for operations in the northern and eastern regions while Cheenu Seshadri leads the southern and western regions. Also, Sandeep Marwaha was appointed as COO of the Maharashtra circle. Prior to this, he served as VP, Vodafone Essar, for the Punjab and Himachal Pradesh circles. In addition, Ashish Bhatia, who was previously serving as COO of TTSL’s Orissa circle, joined SSTL in the same capacity for the Gujarat circle.

Meanwhile, Shahid Balwa and Sanjay Chandra, who are being investigated for their alleged role in the 2G spectrum issue, stepped down as MD of DB Realty Limited and Unitech Wireless respectively. This was followed by Jayesh Desai’s appointment as the interim chairman of Unitech Wireless.


In 2011, several telecom equipment vendors appointed business heads for their Indian operations.

In January 2011, ZTE promoted Cui Liangjun as CEO of its Indian subsidiary, ZTE Telecom India. Prior to this, Liangjun was serving as vice-general manager and chief technology officer of ZTE India. Liangjun replaced Huang Dabin, who continues to work at the company’s headquarters in China. Meanwhile, Dr D.K. Ghosh, CMD of ZTE’s India operations, resigned to pursue his entrepreneurial plans in early 2011.

Recently, ZTE India announced several appointments for its senior-level management team. The new team includes Yotesh Sharma as the sales head. In this role, he will head the sales function across product lines and report directly to Liangjun. Prior to his appointment, Sharma was working with Huawei. Kapil Ahuja was appointed the chief technology and marketing officer and Shuktij Singh as senior VP, Indian Engineering Service Centre. Both Ahuja and Singh were previously working with Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). In addition, Pradeep Kumar Yadav and Ravinder Diwan joined the company as chief information security officer, and head of HRD respectively. While Yadav was serving as corporate VP at Videocon Telecommunications Limited, Diwan was working with Huawei.

In May 2011, Ericsson appointed Fredrik Jejdling as head of operations for India, Nepal and Bhutan. He took over from Gowton Achibar. Meanwhile,

P. Balaji, VP, business development, corporate affairs and communications at Ericsson, moved to Sony Ericsson in July 2011 as MD of Indian operations.

In the same month, Arun Seth joined Alcatel-Lucent India as chairman. Seth works with Rajeev Singh-Molares, president, Asia Pacific (APAC), for developing the business strategy for APAC and India. He continues to work in the capacity of non-executive chairman at BT India.

Qualcomm India and South Asia appointed Kanwalinder Singh, former president, as senior VP, business development, for the recently created Qualcomm chipset division. Also, Avneesh Agrawal took over as president, Qualcomm India and South Asia.

In September 2011, NSN appointed Sandeep Girotra to lead its Indian operations. Prior to this, Ashish Chowdhary, head, customer operations for the eastern region, was responsible for NSN’s Indian operations. Meanwhile, HTC promoted Ajay Sharma to the position of director, sales operation for Southeast Asia from country head. Faisal Siddiqui, who resigned as country head at Motorola India, joined HTC in the same capacity. Sharma has recently resigned to head Micromax’s smartphone business.

Recently, Frenny Bawa stepped down as MD of Research In Motion’s (RIM) Indian operations. He was replaced by Sunil Dutt, who was previously working with Hewlett-Packard India.

In order to strengthen its management structure, Micromax created the position of CEO and appointed Deepak Mehrotra in that capacity. Prior to this, Mehrotra was working as operations director for the mobility business at Bharti Airtel. Also, the company divided its handset business into two divisions – feature phones and smartphones – which will be led by separate directors. Khaja Muzaffarullah, who was heading the modern trade division at Sony Ericsson, will lead the feature phones division at Micromax, while HTC’s Ajay Sharma will be responsible for the smartphone business.

Industry associations

In August 2011, Idea’s MD Himanshu Kapania was elected vice chairperson of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). Bharti Airtel’s CEO for Indian and South Asian operations, Sanjay Kapoor was re-elected as the chairperson of COAI.

Recently, Madhav Joshi, president, legal and regulatory, TTSL, was elected president of the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI). Joshi took over from C.S. Rao, president, corporate affairs, RCOM. Also, Amit Mathur, senior VP, RCOM, was elected VP of AUSPI.


In early 2011, Sify Technologies appointed David Nishball as chief strategic officer. He is also the founder and managing partner of the Darlington Asia Group, which provides ICT-related business development and investment advisory services. During 2007-10, he was the president of Airtel Enterprise Services.

In addition, Tulip Telecom appointed Rahul Ahuja as CFO. Prior to his new role, he was the team leader for the middle-market business in north India at Standard Chartered. In October 2011, the company appointed Sanjay Jain as CEO. Jain previously served as CFO, Tulip Telecom, for about a year.

In May 2011, Sharat Chandra exited as president and COO, strategy and new technologies, GTL. Following his resignation, Chandra launched his own business venture, TelEnergy Technologies. The Future Group’s telecom business also witnessed the exit of Mayur Toshniwal, CEO and in-charge of the T24 mobile service venture.

Hemant Sachdev, MD, consumer and online business, Microsoft India, also resigned in mid-2011. This marked the third major exit for the software giant’s Indian subsidiary. In early 2011, Oracle India’s former MD, Bhaskar Pramanik, took over from Ravi Venkatesan as the chairman of Microsoft India. Neville Taraporewalla was appointed as head of the online and advertising business, and will report directly to Pramanik.

Recently, Sunil Kanoria took charge as vice chairman and MD of Viom Networks. He replaced Arun Kapur, who was promoted to serve as group president and MD of Quippo Telecom and other associated companies of the Srei Group.

In December 2011, Vimal Wakhlu was appointed as CMD of Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL). He has been working with TCIL since December 2006, and prior to his current appointment, he was serving as director (technical).

Also, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India appointed Professor V. Ranganathan of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, as a part-time member. He is a specialist in regulatory issues and has been involved in infrastructure-related work.

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