New Delhi: The face of telecom India, Sunil Mittal, who was once keen on joining politics but left his ambition behind to create the largest private teleco, feels it is time for greater business-politics ties on the lines of Nandan Nilekani heading a prestigious government programme.
"I think the country is moving towards the next generation of leadership and this formation will really determine whether business people or professionals have a role in politics," Mittal, who led Bharti Airtel to become Asia`s leading mobile operator, told a private channel in an interview.
"You are seeing early signs of that. Nandan Nilekani has joined one of the most important positions in the government. You will start seeing more of this," he said.
Nilekani, former co-chairman of Infosys, has been appointed to head the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI), the UPA government`s initiative aimed at creating and maintaining a national database of identity details of all the citizens.
On his plans to join politics, Mittal said, "...I am very comfortable with politics. I am a keen political student and some years back I did think that at 50 I should be in some form or the other in politics. But in the last 4-5 years I have recalibrated my plans and I am happy being where I am.”
"I think we are in the phase of a transition here from old political guard to a new one. And I think in the new one you may have a situation where people who are professionals or businessmen may have a role in politics...," he said.
Mittal feels that he can make a bigger impact through his lines of businesses and expertise in various fields. "We have transformational project under our belt. Telecom makes a big difference to the society. Similarly financial services and retail."
Besides telecom, Bharti is into insurance and retail businesses. For insurance and financial services the company has joined hands with Axa while for retail Bharti has partnered with Walmart of USA.
Moving on to his new business plans especially taking business to overseas, Mittal is keenly pursuing a deal with South African telecom giant MTNL to create a USD 23 billion entity. Having failed once exactly a year ago, Bharti Airtel has renewed talks with the company.
"We have to go abroad... This company is almost debt free. We have virtually no debt. We may be the only company in the world which has virtually no debt on its balance sheet...after covering almost 90 percent of India, now we are crying to go out," he said.
He did not elaborate on the ongoing talks with the MTN even as the exclusive time period for talks ended on July 31 and some announcement about the status is expected this week.