Bharti Airtel looking to merge Indian, African operations

Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest mobile-phone operator, is set for a radical restructuring that will see its Indian and African businesses united under one global chief executive, reports Indian newspaper the Economic Times.

Manoj Kohli, the current chief executive of the African operations, is thought to be favorite to take on the new leadership role, with the changes coming into effect during the first half of 2013.

Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest mobile-phone operator, is set for a radical restructuring that will see its Indian and African businesses united under one global chief executive, reports Indian newspaper the Economic Times.

Manoj Kohli, the current chief executive of the African operations, is thought to be favorite to take on the new leadership role, with the changes coming into effect during the first half of 2013.

According to the Economic Times, Gopal Vittal, the current head of special projects, could be promoted into the African role vacated by Kohli, or, alternatively, be made chief executive of the Indian business, while Sanjay Kapoor, who currently leads the Indian operation, would take responsibility for the other region.

The regional heads would both report to Kohli, instead of Bharti Airtel (New Delhi, India) chairman Sunil Mittal – as they do at present – while Kohli would report to Mittal.

The moves would be in line with the company’s ‘One Airtel’ strategy, which has already been executed in India and South Asia and aims to make the operator a more streamlined and consumer-focused business.

Bharti Airtel has now reported ten consecutive quarters of declining profits and its original proposition of selling low-cost voice packages, while maintaining high levels of operational efficiency, has been widely imitated by its rivals.

In the meantime, India’s operators are taking more interest in mobile data services as they seek returns on their investments in 3G licenses and networks. The provision of data services requires a different set-up from the one that has made Bharti Airtel so successful in the past.

The operator has also recently announced that its African business could miss year-end targets of $5 billion in revenues and $2 billion in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

According to the Economic Times, the organizational changes could include appointing global heads of key functions like marketing, IT and finance, each of whom would report to the global chief executive.

Indeed, Srinkanth Balachander, the chief financial officer, has been in charge of both the Indian and African operations since mid-2011.