Story of how Sunil Mittal went from owning a bicycle business to becoming Telecom Czar

04:19 PM Apr 25, 2021 | Team Udayavani |

Commonly known as Airtel, Bharti Airtel is a public limited company established on July 07, 1995. Being an Indian Telecom company that is currently operating its business across South Asia, Africa, and the Channel Islands, Airtel is also into the GSM providing business in all the countries including 2G and 3G services.


Airtel is claimed to be the 5th largest telecom operator in the world with over 207.8 million subscribers at the end of 2020. It is now the third-largest in the country mobile operator by subscriber base that provides broadband and subscription television services.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, a businessman at 18 years of age, started with a small bicycle business in the bylanes of Ludhiana with a capital investment of Rs. 20,000 borrowed from friends and father.

By 1982, Mittal moved on to a full-fledged business in Mumbai, selling portable generators imported from Japan until the government banned the import of generators as two Indian companies were given the license to manufacture generators locally. From going out of business overnight to becoming India’s Telecom Czar, Sunil Mittal has come a long way.

In order to promote the push-button telephones, Airtel came to India. By the early 1990s, it launched the country’s first fax machine and first cordless telephone. Airtel won a bid to build a cellular phone network in Delhi in 1992, which was extended to Himachal Pradesh in 1996.


By acquiring control of JT holdings, Bharti Airtel extended cellular operations to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. And in 2000, it acquired control over Skycell communications in Chennai, followed by acquiring control of the Spice cell in Kolkata in 2001.

The cellular phone operations were rebranded under the single brand of Airtel in 2003. By 2005, Airtel extended its network to all across India and launched its first international mobile networks in Sri Lanka.

Today, Airtel’s portfolio includes high speed 4G/4.5G mobile broadband, Airtel Xstream Fiber that promises speeds up to 1Gbps, converged digital TV solutions through the Airtel Xstream 4K Hybrid Box, digital payments through Airtel Payments Bank as well as an integrated suite of services across connectivity, collaboration, cloud and security that serves over one million businesses.

Airtel’s OTT services include Airtel Thanks app for self-care, Airtel Xstream app for video, Wynk Music for entertainment, and Airtel BlueJeans for video conferencing. In addition, Airtel has forged strategic partnerships with hundreds of companies across the world to enable the Airtel platform to deliver an array of consumer and enterprise services.


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