Bharti Airtel Success Story – From Bicycle Parts to 3rd Largest Mobile Operator

Bharti Airtel Success Story – From Bicycle Parts to 3rd Largest Mobile Operator

Bharti Airtel Succes Story

Who is Sunil Mittal?

Bharti Airtel Success Story

NameSunil Bharti Mittal
Born23 October 1957 Ludhiana, Punjab
OccupationFounder Chairman
Bharti Enterprises
Net Worth$ 7.4 Billion
Source of WealthTelecom Services
Bharti Airtel
Marital StatusMarried
3 Children
ChildrenKavin Mittal ( Hike Founder)
Eiesha Mittal
Shravin Mittal

Bharti Airtel is an Indian Multinational Telecommunications Company headquartered in New Delhi. It operates 20 countries worldwide across South Asia, Africa and Western Europe. Airtel provides its users vast services like 3G, 4G LTE mobile services, fixed line broadband and voice Over Internet Protocol ( VOIP ) services. Airtel believes in ‘Minute Model’ in business which refers to low cost and high in volumes. Today, Airtel is the largest mobile operator company in India with staggering 190 million subscribers.

History – Sunil Bharti Mittal


“As a child, I was rather active for my age. Sensing something special about me, my father told me that I had the vision to accomplish great things in life. He always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do – and this has stood me in good stead.”

Sunil Mittal ( Founder, Chairman, and CEO ) is the first generation entrepreneur when in 1976 at the age of 18 he started manufacturing bicycle parts in Ludhiana. He borrowed a sum of INR 1,00,000 ( $1620 ) from his politician father and today he has come a long way when his photo appeared on the cover page of Fortune Magazine. Possibly he is among a few sons of politicians who decided to take the ‘Less Beaten Path of Entrepreneurship’ instead of choosing to follow the ‘East Path of Politics’. He was truly an Entrepreneur built for the 21st Century, his ideologies comprised advanced technology and robust info systems to couple with his Excellent team at Airtel was bound to grow.

Business #1: Bicycle Crankshafts

“My first venture was to trade bicycle parts and hosiery yarn. The initial days proved to be difficult, and I earned very little from my business. But I kept at it. Each day, when I retired for the night, I told myself that money would come in the next day.”

Bicycle Crankshaft - Bharti Airtel Success Story

He started his first business at the age of 18 with a small borrowed sum of INR 20,000 ( $340 ) from his father. His first business was to make crankshafts for local bicycle manufacturers. In 1980, he along with his brothers Rakesh, Rajan started an Import Enterprise named Bharti Overseas Trading Company. After some time he sold his bicycle parts and the yarn factories moved to Bombay ( Mumbai ).

It was during this time that he learned that actually what it means to own a business. He was now able to experience the buying and selling and hustling businessmen need to deal with.

“Even while in school – initially, Vineberg Allen in Mussourie, and later, a number of schools in Ludhiana – I aspired to achieve great things in life. Admittedly, I wasn’t quite sure about what these great things would be.”

Business #2: Electric Power Generators

Electric Power Generator - Bharti Airtel Success Story

When he sold his bicycle business, he started importing Suzuki Motor‘s Electric Power Generators from Japan. This was going very well and he started to make profits out of it. But soon Indian government banned the importing of gene sets ( Power Generators ). He said that he was out of business overnight. Everything that he was doing came to a halt. He was in big trouble and his Entrepreneurial mind came to a still slope. But as we can probably guess, he is a hard stoic and was bound to grow further.

As we notice his Technical Expertise came into play with this business, although it didn’t survive due to uncontrollable circumstances but this added to his experience extensively.

‘In 1983, the government imposed a ban on the import of gensets. I was out of business overnight. I was in trouble.”

Business #3: Push Button Phones

Push Button Phone - Bharti Airtel Success Story

He started noticing the popularity of Push Button Phone that was getting interests that time, something which India had not seen then. Indian people were still using those rotating dial phones rather than Push button phones. He sensed his chance and embraced the telecom business. He started marketing telephones, various fax machines under the brand Beetle and the company picked up really fast. In 1984, he started assembling push-button phones in India. He says:

“You can choose to be very profitable very quickly if you don’t want to grow.”

Business #4: Telecom Services Provider

Telecom Service Provider - Bharti Airtel Success Story

“If telecom is seen as a rightful infrastructure for the growth of many other sectors of the economy and the multiplier force, then I think it doesn’t deserve to be taxed so high.”

In early 1992, he successfully got a chance to bid one of the four mobile phone network licenses auctioned in India. As soon as he was ready to start his new business, he faced another difficulty. One of the conditions for the Delhi cellular license was that the bidder has some experience as a telecom operator. Mittal clinched a deal with the French telecom group Vivendi.

Now he was ready to capture the telecom sector in India. His plans were finally approved by the Government in 1994 and soon after a year, he launched services in Delhi. He launched AirTel under Bharti Cellular Limited ( BCL ).

Bharti Airtel – Money Making Business

Airtel Office Gurgaon - Bharti Airtel Success Story

Within few years, Bharti AirTel became the first telecom company in India to reach 2 Million subscriber point. He also lowered the STD / ISD cellular rates in Delhi. With astounding success, including being in Forbes global list of Billionaires, he is working 24×7 with passion. Not for money or fame but that entrepreneur in him.

“Entrepreneurship is like an addiction, it’s always ‘one more’ before it’s over. ” – Bharti Airtel founder Sunil Mittal

In June 2010, his company acquired the African business of Zain Telecom for $10.7 billion making it the largest-ever acquisition by an Indian telecom firm.

In 2012, Bharti tied up with Wal-Mart, the US retail giant, to start a number of retail stores across India.

He also started Bharti Foundation to create schools in villages ( approx 250 schools ) across India to educate the minds of the poor children.

Bharti Airtel Country Map - Bharti Airtel Success Story

Bhati Airtel has it’s presence in following countries:

Bharti Airtel Country Map - Bharti Airtel Success Story

Acquisition of Norway’s Telenor India Division

On 24th February 2017, Airtel is all set to buy Telenor’s India Division to increase market reach and compete with Jio, the Reliance Industries’ Telecom Arm.

Bharti Airtel Success Story

Price War with Jio – Profits dip 72%

Airtel vs Jio - Bharti Airtel Success Story

Bharti Airtel has been aggressively competing with Jio, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries Limited(RIL). Mukesh Ambani has been investing a lot into the Telecom unit because he thinks:

“Data is the New Oil.” – Mukesh Ambani, RIL

The impact from Jio entering this Telecom Area has been significant. The price war in the Monopolistic Competition is evident. Players in Indian Telecom are left to compete with Price Competition, Owing the fact that Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio both have excellent investments in 4G towers and networks.

This price war has resulted in Airtel’s profits dip 72% to Rs 378 Crore. Revenues also fell 12% to Rs 21395 Crore.

Awards and Honours:

  • Padma Bhushan, Government of India, 2007
  • Best Asian Telecom CEO, Telecom Asia Awards, 2005
  • INSEAD Business Leader Award, 2011
  • Best CEO, India, Institutional Investor, 2005
  • Asia Businessman of the Year, Fortune Magazine, 2006

His Quotations and Secrets:

He says he achieved his massive success via ”Management via Walking Around (MWA)!” He partnered with Sweden’s Ericsson, Germany’s Siemens, Finland’s Nokia and most importantly USA’s IBM.

“Beyond The Mountain, There Are More Mountains.”

Read my Recent Posts:



  • Click the Tags below to search Articles via them
  • Please leave a comment down below for your feedback. It matters a lot.

Bharti Airtel Success Story

10 thoughts on “Bharti Airtel Success Story – From Bicycle Parts to 3rd Largest Mobile Operator”

  1. Pingback: The Single Most Important Skill for Entrepreneurs - Startup Archive
  2. Trackback: The Single Most Important Skill for Entrepreneurs - Startup Archive
  3. Pingback: Sandeep Maheshwari Wiki & Biography - India's Best Motivational Speaker - Startup Archive - Startup Archive
  4. Trackback: Sandeep Maheshwari Wiki & Biography - India's Best Motivational Speaker - Startup Archive - Startup Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.