Architects of Digital India

Architects of Digital India

Meet the Architects of Digital India who have used digital tech to revolutionize the telecom sector in India.

Ajey Mehta

 VP & Country Head, HMD Global India

We are speeding towards yet another Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0. And the Internet is in the driver’s seat

A true blue leader in the mobility space, Ajey is a Mechanical Engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, with an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. A true global professional, Ajey’s worked in 4 continents, living in the US, UK, Singapore, UAE, and India.

Ajey has worked with Nokia and Microsoft Devices for over a decade. He’s held various senior leadership positions in business, sales and retail and served as Head of Microsoft Mobile Devices, India; Head of Sales Operations, India, Middle East & Africa; Vice President – Middle East & North Africa; Head of Branded Retail Sales Asia Pacific; and Director of Global Retail Sales Development. Ajey has pioneered business strategies like the Nokia Retail Excellence Framework and the Branded Retail Channel in South East Asia.

Recently, he wrote in his LinkedIn blog that today, “We are speeding towards yet another Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0. And the Internet is in the driver’s seat. From artificial intelligence and robotics to blockchain and 3D printing, from augmented and virtual reality to the Internet of Things and drones – these are the technologies that are set to reshape the way we perceive and interact with the world around us in the days to come. Blockchain and the Internet of Things are leading the way in terms of truly revolutionary technological advancement.”

Amit Agarwal

Global Senior Vice President & Country Manager, Amazon India

He turned Amazon into India’s most customer-centric company thus transforming the Indian E-commerce ecosystem forever. Today, Amazon India enjoys an enviable position as the market leader in the E-commerce segment.

t the age of 33, he became one of the youngest members to be chosen as a technical advisor/shadow to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. He has since then led several key initiatives and played a pivotal role in the company’s international expansion efforts.

Known for his customer obsession and outstanding business development skills, he spearheaded the expansion of the company in India and turned Amazon into India’s most customer-centric company thus transforming the Indian E-commerce ecosystem forever. Today, Amazon India enjoys an enviable position as the market leader in the e-commerce segment. In 2018, IIT Kanpur conferred upon him the prestigious Distinguished Alumnus Award for professional excellence.

Owing to his excellent track record and relentless endeavors to expand Amazon’s business in India, the company elevated him to the position of a global senior vice president in March 2017. He continues to head the company’s operations in India as the Country Manager.

Dr Anand Agarwal

Group CEO, Sterlite Tech

Under Anand’s leadership, Sterlite Tech has grown from an optical-fibre manufacturer to a global data network solutions company that designs, builds and manages smarter digital networks.

With over 200 patents, it is home to India’s only Centre of Excellence for research on photonics and glass science; Centre for Smarter Networks for next-generation network applications and Specialty Products Experience Lab. Projects undertaken by the Company include intrusion-proof smarter data network for the Armed Forces, citizen networks for Bharat Net (rural broadband), Smart Cities’ development and establishing high-speed Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity. Sterlite engages with Internet companies, data centers, citizen networks and telcos in 100 countries. It has manufacturing facilities in India, Italy, China and Brazil and two Software Delivery Centers in India.

Sterlite Technologies is a data network solutions leader that designs, builds and manages smarter digital networks globally. It provides end-to-end network solutions for global telecom companies, cloud companies, citizen networks, and the defense. With innovation at its core, its technological solutions are developed at the Centre of Excellence for research in photonics and glass science and Center for Smarter Networks for innovation for next-generation networks.

Sterlite Tech’s optical communication products have scaled significantly in the last three years and today they have over 230 patents to their credit. The company is developing solutions for 5G and FTTx networks, intrusion-proof defense networks, rural broadband, data-center networks and much more.

Aruna Sundararajan

Secretary, DoT & Chairperson, Telecom Commission

Under her leadership, it was an inclusive approach carrying all stakeholders in a diverse telecom industry with her open, accessible, objective, balanced and forward-looking policies.

Under her tenure as DoT secretary, there was a six-fold increase in public spending on telecom infrastructure and services over the last few years. And the teledensity is now up from 75% in 2014 to over 91% in 2018, with an addition of over 280 million new subscribers. The other major milestones include the five-plus times growth in broadband access and India becoming the highest mobile data-consuming nation globally at 1.3 Billion GB per month.

With completion of BharatNet phase 1 where OFC coverage went up from 7 lakh km in 2014 to 14 Lakh km in 2018 being rolled out at the phenomenal rate of 200-800 km per day, and reaching over 1 Lakh Gram Panchayats connected by 2018; formulation and passing of NDCP 2018 that covers important aspects including emerging technologies such as IoT, AI, M2M.

She also played an instrumental role in upping the overall ease of doing business, spectrum sharing, connecting uncovered areas of NE, LWE, A&N Islands; and the WiFi Hotspot initiative; and the setting up of the “Forum for 5G India 2020” to work out the spectrum and regulatory policies; awareness promotion programs and build up applications and use cases, and pilot trials. Sundararajan also broke the glass ceiling by becoming India’s first woman DoT Secretary two years ago.

Under her leadership, it was an inclusive approach carrying all stakeholders in diverse telecom industry with her open, accessible, objective, balanced and forward-looking policies. She helped to accelerate the nation’s march towards becoming rapidly digital, creating a conducive environment where adoption of contemporary technology was critical in expediting the closure of the yawning digital divide that has plagued our nation.

Bala Malladi

CEO, ACT Fibernet

He successfully integrated multicultural businesses, introduced cutting edge services such as HDTV, IPTV and high speed Broadband through fiber, created benchmark standards in customer service and helped ACT’s 4000+ employees.

How about bringing in Internet speeds at par with the West to the Indian users? That’s what ACT Fibernet did. At ACT, Bala leads the blueprint of strategic business plans, directs all business vertical heads to define their operating roadmap, personally oversees acquisitions under ACT and is the first in command to drive ‘the ACT Way’ value system across all its operations.

He has used his experience of setting up new businesses and managing large portfolios of well-known brands across the globe to establish ACT as one of the leading digital cable and Broadband service providers in India.

Since he took charge as CEO in 2008, Bala has grown ACT’s business manifolds. He successfully integrated multicultural businesses, introduced cutting edge services such as HDTV, IPTV and high-speed Broadband through fiber, created benchmark standards in customer service, and helped ACT’s 4000+ employees and associates to see a common vision for sustainable growth across its business entities.

Balesh Sharma

CEO, Vodafone-Idea

An emerging key architect of Indian telecom, Balesh Sharma’s experience cuts across the length and breadth of the telecom industry.

Sharma joined Vodafone (then called Hutch) in 2003, has held several senior management positions in India and globally.

Vodafone-Idea is born from the merger of Vodafone-India and Idea Cellular, two stalwarts of the Indian telecom sector who over the years have played a key role in driving the telecom revolution across the length and breadth of India, making mobile the most popular mode of communication.

Sharma remarked in the CEO speak in the Vodafone blog: “With technology driving transformation at an unprecedented pace, the real and virtual worlds are rapidly merging to usher a bold new future – Digital Convergence, Big Data, IoT, Cloud, Augmented Reality, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence are touching every aspect of our life.”

“With the wide network of towers, large distribution reach, multiple broadband carriers and a portfolio of technologies offering the full gamut of connectivity across mobile, fixed line and wifi, Vodafone-Idea is perfectly positioned to be the new champion for Digital India. Our aspiration is to create a truly ‘Digital India’ by enabling millions of citizens to connect and build a better tomorrow. Our focus is to create value for all our stakeholders – customers, employees, vendors & partners, investors, government and community.”

Bhavish Aggarwal

Founder, Ola Cabs (ANI Technologies)

He’s the man who changed the landscape of public transport in India

Bhavish Aggarwal is a young digital entrepreneur who has blazed a trail in a hotly contested $12 Bn cab services market in India. The journey of his company had humble beginnings in 2011 from a 1 BHK office in Powai, Mumbai but it now boasts of mega headquarters in Bengaluru.

His company continues to raise billions in funding, raising its valuation to many times over the $1B unicorn mark. The company continues to invest in expansion and innovation, but more importantly, it uses the funds to take on its fiercest global competitor, over whom it already has the lead. The company’s innovation in creating localized products has forced its fiercest rival to follow suit and launch similar products.

The company is chasing global dreams. In February this year, the company launched operations in Australia, in Perth and this month forayed into Sydney. The company has also set up teams in Colombo and Dhaka, though it’s yet to start services there.

In terms of innovation, his company is all set to roll out electric vehicles across key cities in India and this move is aimed towards building a more sustainable transport solution in the country. The start-up, which is present in 110 cities across India, plans to invest heavily in artificial intelligence technology and penetrate new areas of the country.

He began his career with Microsoft Research where he worked for two years, and during which time he filed two patents and published three papers in international journals. He set up ANI Technologies in 2011 along with his friend, Ankit Bhati, and within the next four years, the duo was the youngest to be included in that year’s list of richest Indians. He’s the man who changed the landscape of public transport in India.

Bimal Dayal

CEO, Indus Towers

Bimal Dayal’s vision is shared by every team member across all sectors in his organization

Bimal Dayal is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Indus Towers. Bimal joined Indus as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in February 2010 and since then has led the Company to achieve many milestones.

In the past, Bimal has worked with prestigious organizations like Ericsson in Sweden and in Sri Lanka overseeing the entire range of ’Manage and Operate’ functions, including planning, O&M, Rollout/Deployment, and Network Assurance. He has worked with global operators like BT Global in Maxis, Hutchison, and Telenor. In Sri Lanka, as Country Manager and Managing Director of Ericsson Telecommunications Lanka Pvt Ltd, he successfully steered the company to become the country’s number one player in telecom infrastructure. Prior to his current assignment, Bimal was with Qualcomm India & South Asia as Country Manager and Vice President, Business Development.

Indus Towers was created with a vision to transform the telecom industry. It is an enabler for the communication revolution in India. Indus touches 600 million people every day, multiple times a day. 3 out of every 5 calls in India are made through an Indus site.

Gopal Vittal

CEO, Bharti Airtel

Gopal Vittal is playing a pivotal role in the industry in building all blocks of Digital India

Gopal Vittal has demonstrated his mettle all through the years since he took over as the CEO of Bharti Airtel in 2013. He took over as CEO at Bharti Airtel at a time when Telecom was poised as a game-changer in the Indian ICT industry. Since then, it has been no turning back for Vittal as he steered through Airtel which has seen its share of ups and downs.

Today, like the other operators, Airtel is disrupted by the macro changes in the telecom industry and the current wave of consolidation and the effects Reliance JIO has had on the industry at large. While Vittal and his team fires up Airtel to navigate the plethora of challenges, his contribution to the telecom industry as well as taking Airtel to the next orbit assumes critical proportions. Clearly, Vittal is expected to play a pivotal role in the industry as we move forward to build Digital India.

Harmeen Mehta

Global CIO, Airtel

Harmeen Mehta has redefined Airtel’s IT organization into a state of the art backbone supporting its mission-critical business

By using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Harmeen has paved the way for the creation of self-healing IT infrastructure. Airtel is also aggressively making its 5G foray and on the road to establishing ample use cases to demonstrate the uniqueness of 5G.

Clearly, Harmeen is playing a pivotal role in Airtel and enabling the company to embrace the next-gen technologies and at the same time upping the ante in terms of business efficiency and the overall deliverables to its clients.

In mention to him in the MIT blog, it said, “Since coming to Airtel four years ago, Harmeen has helped transition the company’s outsourced IT department into an in-house operation, both diversifying the company’s partnerships with other tech companies and reducing operating expenses.” Harmeen has observed, “When you become one of the largest telecom companies in the world, you kind of need to be master of your own destiny. I think it was the right time to make that change and it’s the reason I was brought in.”

Manu Kumar Jain

MD, Xiaomi India

The 37-year-old Manu Jain has led Xiaomi since establishing its Indian operations as its first employee in 2014, after earlier co-founding leading E-commerce portal Jabong.com in 2012.

The man behind Xiaomi’s extraordinary success in this part of the world. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi on August 9, 2003, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 2007. He joined Xiaomi Group in October 2014 and heads Xiaomi’s business in India. Prior to January 2014, he worked at Jabong.com. Between June 2007 and December 2011, he served in McKinsey & Company and held the position of Engagement Manager at the time of leaving. He also serves as Global Vice President at Xiaomi Inc.

According to the Holmes Report, Xiaomi’s meteoric rise to become India’s leading smartphone brand. The 37-year-old Jain has led Xiaomi since establishing its Indian operations as its first employee in 2014, after earlier co-founding leading e-commerce portal Jabong.com in 2012

Mathew Oommen

President, Reliance JIO

Mathew Oommen heads Jio’s Network and Service Platforms and has played a critical role in facilitating digital India by creating a state of the art 4G-network backbone at Jio.

Reliance launched its 4G broadband services throughout India in September 2016. Jio offers fourth-generation (4G) data and voice services, along with peripheral services like instant messaging and streaming movies and music. The company has a network of more than 250,000 km of fiber optic cables in the country, over which it will be partnering with local cable operators to get broader connectivity for its broadband services. With its multi-service operator (MSO) license, JIO will also serve as a TV channel distributor and will offer television-on-demand on its network. JIO launched GigaFibre on 15th August 2018, which offers high-speed broadband, landline, and DTH services at reasonable prices.

Mathew is playing a critical role in driving the application of analytics and big data to expand opportunities for monetization and customization of services and solutions for exceptional value creation and customer experience at Reliance JIO. The ability to visualize market trends and leverage emerging technologies to deliver affordable high-value services and solutions in a hyper-competitive market is key in the telecom industry. At JIO, Mathew is leading his focused efforts on ensuring security embedded across the network, systems, platforms, devices, applications, processes and people enabling prevention, detection, containment and recovery and making it a new age telecom operator in a true sense.

RS Sharma

Chairperson, TRAI

In his present job, he has led major reforms in the sector including the work in the area of Net Neutrality, data ownership, privacy and security.

RS Sharma is currently the Chairperson of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). He has held this position since August 2015. TRAI is the regulatory body for Telecom and Broadcasting sector in India. In his present job, he has led major reforms in the sector including the work in the area of Net Neutrality, data ownership, privacy, and security.

Sharma, as a member of Indian Administrative Service, has been working in the area of public administration for the last forty years. His earlier assignments include DG and Mission Director of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as a founding CEO for India’s ID project – Aadhaar – for four years (2009-2013).

His other major assignments include working as Chief Secretary of Jharkhand (India), Principal Secretary of the Departments of Human Resources Development (HRD), Information Technology (IT) and Drinking water and Sanitation. He was also the Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs at Government of India looking after issues such as infrastructure financing and multilateral and bilateral economic cooperation.

He has been deeply involved in the areas of e-Governance since long. He is credited with introducing IT systems in the area of public service delivery such as Government Treasuries, Public Grievances, office automation, Land Reforms, Urban Governance, Tax reforms, Transport Systems and many more.

Rajan S Mathews

DG, COAI

As a strong believer in national security and privacy issues for the country, Mathews pressed that regulatory framework must ensure primacy and no exception should be made for any service provider, including the OTT communication service providers.

Under Rajan Mathews’s leadership, the COAI interceded with the Government of India to allow extension of the deferred payment of the spectrum debt, as the industry is reeling under acute financial distress. For the ROW issue, COAI succeeded in getting tower policy issued in many states including Odisha. Regarding the issue of sustainable telecom, COAI has been advocating that there should be only one target i.e. carbon abatement and there should not be any target for RET deployment. TRAI recommended that TSPs should voluntarily adopt the RET solutions, energy efficient equipment’s and high capacity fast charging storage solutions.

Another issue is the mandatory testing of telecom equipment which is likely to adversely affect the entire telecom sector ecosystem, which is already debt-ridden, overburdened with regulatory & policy interventions and multiple governments and sectoral compliances. Based on requests from COAI, Government set up committees for different types of equipment to prepare essential requirements of testing for each type.

Promoting local telecom equipment manufacturing is another area that COAI has been taking up with the government of India. COAI has recommended that for India to become a center for telecom equipment manufacturing, the Government should look at holistically promoting the overall manufacturing ecosystem within the country, which can be plugged into the global supply chain.

Ritesh Agarwal

Founder, OYO Rooms

Under Ritesh’s leadership and vision, the company has now ventured into co-living rental places, which gives them much higher control of the property including maintenance and professional upkeep.

When Ritesh Agarwal founded Oyo Rooms in 2013, little did he realize that in time his initiative would usher in disruptive changes in the services industry like hospitality. What started with one city and one hotel in Gurugram in 2013 has now grown to 100,000 rooms in 350 cities, as opposed to Marriott’s 23,000 and Taj Hotel’s 17,000.

Oyo epitomizes the power of the ‘application economy’ and how a completely new market opportunity can be created with hard work and the right kind of service. And success just follows. For instance, Oyo has been very quickly able to build up over 10,000 asset partners spread across five countries, including India, China, Malaysia, Nepal and the UK, mid-East and South Asia. For this man, the focus has been on standardizing the hotels in the non-branded hospitality sector. That has been Ritesh’s USP and his winning formula.

Under Ritesh’s leadership and vision, the company has now ventured into co-living rental places, which gives them much higher control of the property including maintenance and professional upkeep. With this, he aims to help residents save on brokerage, lock-in periods, and the hassle of the searching house helps and support services involved while moving to a new residence. It has already boarded over 35 properties with 2,000 beds and plans to scale it up to about 50,000 beds in the next year across the top-10 metros.

In 2018, the company raised $800 million from Japanese tech fund, Softbank, for a valuation of $5 billion. The company also received an additional commitment of $200 million, taking the total funding to $1 billion.

To achieve all this, the dependence on technology has been significant. His company currently employs 700 techies to drive most of the innovations, which are mostly IT based. By 2020 he plans to hire over 2000 tech professionals and invest in technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and IoT.

Ritesh has truly disrupted India’s hotels’ sector, a market worth less than $7 bn back in 2013 then but likely to by $14 bn by 2020). At 24, he is the youngest and the only entrepreneur to have managed over $ 1 bn VC funds.

Rajan Vagadia

MD, Qualcomm India

With experience covering diverse areas like manufacturing, supply-chain, strategy, Rajan Vagadia has been instrumental in driving LTE growth for India and expanding opportunities for related business.

He championed technologies such as the Internet of Everything (IoE) across the different verticals covering smart cities, healthcare, automotive, wearables, home, and industrial automation.

Before joining Qualcomm, Vagadia has held local and regional, executive level positions at Motorola, Tata Teleservices Ltd, Elcoteq and Reliance Infocomm Ltd. in areas of, business development and outsourcing. He has also worked for Indian Carriers and Multinationals-OEM, ODM, Contract Manufacturers, and Carriers. He was an entrepreneur early in his career, where his company was a supplier of telecom gear to the India and SAARC markets.

Shyam Mardikar

CTO, Reliance JIO

A telecom strategist with an innovative and out of box thought process to formulate architecture and technology plans options around spectrum, network evolution, virtualization and customer experience.

Technology thought leader with more than 24 years in the telecommunications industry across Network and IT domains in Strategy, Planning, Engineering and Operations across India and Europe. Telecom evangelist with an inclusive outlook towards the new telecom DNA (Devices, Network, Applications) instrumental in creating a flatter, closer to the customer, service aware network.

Significant Leadership Roles:

  • Leading and enabling geography leaders to manage network changes and operational performance
  • Leading the launch of India’s first U900, L1800 networks and “first of its kind re-farming of a large network from GSM to 3G
  • Leading multi-domain Engineering and planning teams for investment planning and creating annual operating plans for a diversified network system with multi-billion dollar outlay –across all network domains
  • Providing technology outlook and business support for an integrated telco across B2C and B2B verticals and drive higher CapEx productivity and OpEx efficiency
  • Leading multi-domain architecture teams to create the network blueprint based on market dynamics, techno-regulatory ecosystem and technology roadmap
  • Leading very large scale and complex transformation projects around network modernization, spectrum re-farming, migration of platforms across large geographies and customer base.

TV Ramachandran

President, Broadband India Forum

During his long 12 years stint with COAI, TV Ramachandran passionately championed the cause of the industry in many areas and played a key role in the achievement of many significant successes for the sector.

TV Ramachandran, experienced for about 22 years in Indian Mobile Telecommunications, is President of the Broadband India Forum and Chairman of the Telecoms Council of the European Business Group, India.

He was the 1st CEO of one of the earliest cellular ventures in India – Sterling Cellular Ltd (Essar Cellphone), Delhi and led the establishment and successful launch of the largest Indian cellular network of that time. Sterling Cellular was incidentally the original predecessor of what is today Vodafone Delhi.

He was the Founder-Chairman of the India Interest Group of GSM MoU Association from 1995 to 1998 and has been closely involved with GSM and ITU activities all through the years. He was also the 1st Director General of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) and established and led it to the position of being one of the most credible and vibrant professional bodies that became accepted as the effective voice of the Indian mobile industry. During his long 12 year stint with COAI, TV passionately championed the cause of the industry in many areas and played a key role in the achievement of many significant successes for the sector. Was Resident Director, Regulatory Affairs & Govt. Relations, Vodafone India for over 5 years from Oct 2009 and is credited with the setting-up of one of the best regulatory teams in the industry.

Ramachandran has a Master’s in Physics (specialization in Wireless & Electronics) with distinction and University rank, from Madras University and is Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Engg & Technology (IET) London, for his contributions to Mobile Telephony. One of only 3 Indians to be conferred this prestigious Award in the over 100 years of existence of this institution. Is Member of IET’s Global Advisory Panel for IoT(Internet of Things).

In March 2015, at the Telecom Leadership Forum in Delhi, TV was conferred the Voice & Data Lifetime Contribution Award.

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