India’s Sunil Mittal has built a mobile-phone empire by turning outsourcing on its head. Now he’s plotting a retail revolution with a new partner – Wal-Mart.
As the number of his countrymen signing up for mobile-phone service snowballed in 2003, Sunil Mittal, founder and CEO of India’s leading wireless company, had a troubling epiphany.
Subscribers were doubling every year, putting India on track to overtake China as the world’s hottest mobile market. With a 20 percen share, Mittal’s firm, Bharti Tele-Ventures, held a slender lead in a crowded field that included rivals backed by deep-pocket Indian conglomerates such as Tata and Reliance.
To stay out front, Bharti would have to ramp up from three million subscribers to more than 25 million within a few years. But how? The more he pondered, the more Mittal doubted his ability to build out a network fast enough to keep pace with all that growth.