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You can never let a serious crisis go to waste, Sunil Mittal

Salient points from the 55-minutes chat between Sunil Mittal, Past President, CII & Chairman, Bharti Enterprises and Rajiv Memani, Chairman, CII National Committee on Taxation & Chairman – India Region and Chairman, Emerging Markets Committee, Ernst & Young LLP at the virtual CII Business Summit, India is becoming future-ready.

“As Rahm Emanuel said, You never let a serious crisis go to waste. India, by and large has scored well through the crisis that arose from Covid, Ukraine war and disruption in China supply chain. Backed with a strong leadership, the country is well poised and positioned to deal with these tectonic shifts. In the next 10 years, I see tremendous opportunities, be it for building our own semiconductor business or defence production. CII and other similar organisations need to work hand-in-hand with the government and support our small, medium and micro enterprises to deal with the sudden shifts and changes.

At Airtel we have seen it all. We have dealt with tectonic shifts in technology and environment, the many regulatory hits, an existential stock crisis where we were brought to our knees to a share price of Rs 19, that rose to Rs 1200 in 18 months, et al. The adversities have made us strong and battle hardened.

What happened, not just at Airtel but at AT&T, Telefonica, Verizon, T-Mobile and others, when Whatsapp took away the entire revenue of SMS, is happening in the satellite space. The GEO players with 234 satellites in space and an attitude that LEO has no future, is seeing trillions of dollars of valuations being transferred to the OTT players, be it Facebook, or Google. On a similar note, it is becoming very difficult to compete with the e-commerce players. They are riding on us, and while we spend billions, they enjoy trillions of valuation.

At Airtel, we are moving toward value added services. C PaaS is one example. We offer cloud and cyber security services to SMEs, so while the large companies go to Google Cloud and Amazon, for instance, the huge number of smaller companies rely on us. Our digital revenue should start to become meaningful in its own right in several billion dollars over the next few years, be it hosting digital players on our data centres, entertainment streaming and download services, music platforms or Airtel-Thanks.

The world is changing rapidly and with massive tech backups and platform, UI and UX needs to be very intuitive. Metaverse, robotic surgery, drone management, supplying goods on people’s rooftop with a drone, autonomous cars, the list is endless. And to stay relevant, companies will need to embrace the requisite changes.

Unfortunately, the Trump era, Covid, and Ukraine war have led the globalized world to become de-globalized, more self-reliant. We are moving to broken blocks, trusted supply chains as opposed to global supply chains. And if that means more pain and increased costs, we will have to accept it.

Germany will see a 12 percent increase in energy costs, but is going to buy from the trusted sources and not go to the global source, which is the cheapest, and is already connected on the tap. India has suffered the consequences of price hikes, but has stopped buying Chinese telecom equipment. The shortage of chips, is affecting every industry, be it telecom, automobile, components or consumer electronics.

The saving grace is that India is a continent of consumers, we are not a small, little country. And India is perceived as a trusted source. We expect tremendous tailwinds because of this shift. Moving forward, supply chains will start to rest in places which have democracies, open societies, and that’s where most of the procurements will happen. India will no doubt benefit . India needs to play its cards well, as she has done so far.”

CT Bureau

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