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Sunil Mittal lost a billion dollars ahead of Ambani's Jio launch — and as much after that

Sunil Mittal, the founder of Bharti Airtel, is the 14th richest person in India

Sunil Mittal lost a billion dollars ahead of Ambani's Jio launch — and as much after that
Slideshows1 min read

​He founded a small bicycle-parts manufacturing business, Bharti, in 1976 when he was 18

​He founded a small bicycle-parts manufacturing business, Bharti, in 1976 when he was 18

Net Worth 2018: $8.8 billion

Mittal comes from a strong political background in Ludhiana. His father Sat Paul Mittal, a Congress leader, served as a Member of Rajya Sabha (Upper House) for two terms. Mittal could have followed his father’s footsteps, but he chose to become an entrepreneur.

He founded a small bicycle-parts manufacturing business, Bharti, in 1976 when he was 18. Gradually, he expanded and switched business from selling bicycle parts to wool blankets to importing stainless steel, brass, plastics and zip fasteners.

“I started with capital of about $1,500 (₹20,000) , a princely sum for a student coming out of college, an amount I borrowed from my father,” he told the Financial Times.

Soon, he became the poster boy of India’s telecom industry.

Soon, he became the poster boy of India’s telecom industry.

Net Worth 2017: $7.5 billion

At the age of 24, Mittal became India’s largest importer of portable generators. However, the success didn’t last. The government banned the imports in 1984 and Mittal was forced to dive into other business opportunities. He introduced the electronic push-button phone in India with his new business MittBrau.

But his life’s turning point came when he acquired one of the 52 licenses rolled out by Indian government to manufacture telephones in India. In the early 1990s, Mittal’s business thrived. His company was earning ₹250 million in annual sales.

In 1991, Mittal got another golden opportunity when the government decided to bring private players in the market. That’s how Airtel was born. Within a short time, it emerged as a national service provider with over 200 million customers.

Soon, he became the poster boy of India’s telecom industry. He also expanded to other South Asian and African countries where telecom business is growing. His net worth in 2015 stood $6.6 billion.

Mukesh Ambani led-Reliance Industries disrupted the Indian telecom industry yet again with Jio

Mukesh Ambani led-Reliance Industries disrupted the Indian telecom industry yet again with Jio

Net Worth 2017: $7.5 billion

Mittal and Airtel had survived to tell the tale of the first telecom tariff war in 2007, by Tata Docomo. But the second war had bruised them.

Mukesh Ambani led-Reliance Industries disrupted the Indian telecom industry yet again withJio. And it hit where it hurts — the growing data market.

Jio added a whopping 16 million subscribers within the first few months. Also, India’s data consumption skyrocketed from 20 crore GB per month to 370 GB per month. And, Jio users accounted for 240 crore GB data usage.

And the effect started showing. Bharti Airtel reported its first net loss in almost 15 years in 2016 at ₹652.30 crore. The same quarter the year before, it was at ₹770.80 crore.While India operations were down, its African business was booming.

Both Airtel and Jio raged a war to capture a larger share of India’s billion dollar telecom market

Both Airtel and Jio raged a war to capture a larger share of India’s billion dollar telecom market

Net Worth 2016: $5.7 billion

Jio overtook Airtel to be India’s second largest telecom provider. However, Airtel still continues to hold a massive user base of 328 million.

In the last few weeks, it looks like there is another change brewing. Jio has been upgrading its packs and started charging for calls, probably signalling another wave of change. But Airtel survived both good and bad times earlier, this could be just another blip in its journey. Afterall, Mittal since early days is known for his resilience.

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