After a 15-year stint at the company, Bharti Airtel’s chief executive for India and south Asia, Sanjay Kapoor, is set to quit the company on February 28.
In close to three years since he became CEO on March 1, 2010, the company has seen a sharp decline in its market share in a highly competitive domestic mobile market, with new players coming in and the 2G scam making headlines.
He will be replaced by Gopal Vittal, who returned to the Bharti fold last year as group director (special projects). Vittal would take charge as CEO (India) from March 1, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. He would report to Chairman Sunil Mittal.
According to the statement, Kapoor has decided to pursue his future aspirations outside Bharti. However, he will remain on the boards of Indus Towers and Bharti Global.
This would be the second stint at Bharti for Vittal, an alumnus of IIM-Kolkata and an ex-Hindustan Unilever hand. In his previous stint, as director of marketing and communications for two years until 2008, he directly reported to Manoj Kohli, the current joint managing director and CEO (international) overseeing the Africa operations.
Those in the know say the Mittals are planning to integrate the Africa and India operations through a new structure, under which it is likely Kohli would become the global CEO, with two separate heads — one for India and South Asia and another for Africa. Bharti Airtel spokesperson, declined to comment on this.
At present, there are two divisions – one includes India and South Asia (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh), accounting for 72-75 per cent of the company’s revenues; and the other is for Africa, where it has operations in 17 countries. The heads of both, including Kohli and Kapoor, report to Chairman Mittal.
“Under the proposed structure, Kapoor might have had to report to Kohli,” says a top former executive of Bharti Airtel who quit a few years ago.
Bharti Airtel had posted 11 straight quarters of declining profit until September 2012. Its earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) for India and South Asia business declined four per cent to Rs 8,224 crore in 2011-12 from Rs 8,555 crore the previous year.
However, Bharti’s revenue market share in revenue terms in India marginally improved to 28.98 per cent during the quarter ended September 2012, compared to 28.06 per cent in the quarter ended March 2010 (when Kapoor had taken over as CEO).
Over the past year, Vittal, a marketing man, has worked across the Singtel Group in South Asia, Australia, Softbank and Silicon Valley, understanding emerging trends in data and internet space. At Unilever, he played a key role in project Bharat, one of the country’s largest rural marketing initiatives by the FMCG company, and rose to become the executive director for its home and personal care division.