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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lie low, I said, and we will live to fight for another day

MY moment Survived by lying low ‘Reliance Was About To Enter Mobile Telephony. We Were Very Nervous...’ SUNIL BHARTI MITTAL CMD BHARTI GROUP
We had built a business with a lot of sweat and effort. And suddenly, it all looked very, very vulnerable. This was six years ago. Reliance, the country’s biggest corporate giant, had announced it was entering mobile telephony. This was no ordinary entry; Reliance planned to spread its network across the country with a different technology and was threatening to unleash a price war. On top of this, the state-owned giant BSNL, too, unfolded all-India plans for mobile telephones. We at Airtel were very nervous. At that point of time, we were present only in seven circles. Could we survive this onslaught? We were not the only ones who were nervous.
All existing mobile companies were feeling threatened. All of them were scared of the coming storm and some, like Rajeev Chandrashekhar, actually decided to quit. We at Airtel were divided on what to do next. There were some who said we should ramp up our service in our seven circles and show both customers and competition what it means to have a world-class service.
This meant greater investments. I didn’t quite agree with the strategy. I felt that if we stood up at this time, the storm would just blow us away. The debate within Airtel raged.I was clear: the debate had to be settled one way or the other. The company’s top leadership repaired to Agra for hammering out our strategy. The discussions continued all day. I might have wavered for a moment, but then chose to go with my gut.
Lie low, I said, and we will live to fight for another day. This is what we eventually did and till this day, our ‘Agra Conclave’ is seen in the company as a high point of strategy. For the next 18 months we kept a very low profile while preparing to roll out our network across the country.We bought equipment, studied the different markets, negotiated and worked out acquisitions, talked partnerships. I revved up morale in the company by telling all colleagues: “Everyone expects us to lose, but if we don’t, we will make history.’’ As it turned out, we did make history. Posted by Satish Kandukuri at 3:39 AM 0 comments Labels: ,

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