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


  • There was a time when Mittal was almost the undisputed king of the market.
  • But he lost nearly a billion dollars a year after Jio launched. His net worth fell from $6.6 billion in 2015 to $5.7 billion in 2016.
  • Mittal and Mukesh Ambani are in the news for their fierce rivalry over supremacy in the telecom market.

There is an old saying — first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they lose. Something similar happened to Sunil Mittal, founder of Bharti Airtel who became an entrepreneur at the age of 18 with a bicycle parts manufacturer.

There was a time when Sunil Mittal fell short of ₹5,000 in the 1980s but this roadblock didn’t stop him from creating India’s largest conglomerate.

He received more than $350 million in dividends in FY19, according to Bloomberg.

Mittal and Mukesh Ambani are in the news for their fierce rivalry over supremacy in the telecom market. But, there was a time when Mittal was almost the undisputed king of the market. Sunil Mittal lost nearly a billion dollar the year after Jio launched. His net worth fell from $6.6 billion in 2015 to $5.7 billion in 2016.

Surprisingly, he lost over 1.2 billion dollars between 2018 and 2019 primarily.

Here’s the rise and fall of Sunil Mittal:
71717691

{{}}

View As: One Page Slides

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

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

Sunil Mittal, 61, controls one of the India’s largest telecom companies Bharti Airtel— with 400 million subscribers. He is the 14th richest person in India with a net worth of $7.6 B.

Most of his fortune comes from his 21% stake is Bharti Airtel — one of the world’s largest telecom companies. It has over 327.9 million subscribers in India alone. It also has operations in Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The company recently posted a 24.36% quarter-on-quarter increase in profit at ₹107.20 crore.

The holding company of the telecom business Bharti Enterprises has 13 subsidiaries with interests across telecom, insurance, real estate, agri and food. It also has joint ventures with international companies including Singtel, SoftBank, AXA, Del Monte etc.

​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.

Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.