Sunil Bharti Mittal, born on October 23, 1957, is a prominent Indian billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He is the visionary founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises, a conglomerate with diverse interests spanning telecom, insurance, real estate, education, malls, hospitality, agriculture, and food, among other ventures. His flagship company, Bharti Airtel, stands as India's largest telecom giant and one of the world's largest with operations in 18 countries across Asia and Africa, boasting a customer base exceeding 399 million. In FY2016, Bharti Airtel recorded revenues surpassing US$14.75 billion. As of 2023, Forbes ranks Sunil Bharti Mittal as the 10th richest person in India, with an estimated net worth of US$14.8 billion.
Sunil Bharti Mittal hails from Ludhiana, Punjab, and was born into a Khatri-Agarwal family. His father, Sat Pal Mittal, a Member of Parliament from the Indian National Congress, played a significant role in his life. Mittal's educational journey took him to institutions like Wynberg Allen School in Mussoorie Scindia School in Gwalior, and he graduated in 1976 from Panjab University, Chandigarh, with a Bachelor of Arts and Science. Tragically, his father passed away in 1992 due to a cardiac arrest, but his legacy lived on in his son's remarkable journey.
Sunil Bharti Mittal's entrepreneurial spirit was evident from an early age. In April 1976, at just 18 years old, armed with a capital investment of ₹20,000 borrowed from his father, he embarked on his first business venture. He began by manufacturing crankshafts for local bicycle manufacturers, marking the inception of his entrepreneurial journey.
In 1980, Mittal, along with his brothers Rakesh Mittal and Rajan Mittal, founded Bharti Overseas Trading Company, an import enterprise. The company's early years saw the import of portable electric-power generators from Japan. However, the Indian government's ban on generator imports led to a significant turning point in Mittal's career. In 1984, he shifted his focus to assembling push-button phones in India, replacing the traditional rotary phones. His company, Bharti Telecom Limited (BTL), collaborated with Siemens AG of Germany to manufacture electronic push-button phones. This marked the beginning of Bharti's remarkable journey in the telecom industry.
In 1992, Sunil Bharti Mittal secured one of the four mobile phone network licenses auctioned in India. Bharti Cellular Limited (BCL) was formed, and in 1995, he launched cellular services under the brand name AirTel. By the early 1990s, Bharti had diversified into making fax machines, cordless phones, and other telecom equipment. Bharti achieved the distinction of becoming the first telecom company in India to surpass 2 million mobile subscribers. Bharti also played a pivotal role in reducing STD/ISD cellular rates in India under the brand name 'Indiaone.'
In 2008, Mittal contemplated a significant acquisition when he explored the possibility of purchasing MTN Group, a South African telecommunications company. The potential deal could have amounted to US$45 billion for a 100% stake in MTN. Although the talks held promise, they ultimately fell apart due to differences in the structure of the new company. In 2010, Bharti, led by Mittal, acquired Zain Telecom's African business for $10.7 billion, making it the largest acquisition by an Indian telecom firm at the time.
Sunil Bharti Mittal's commitment to education and philanthropy shines through the Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises. The foundation has established schools in villages across India, providing free quality education, books, uniforms, and mid-day meals to underprivileged children. The 'Satya Bharti School Program' alone operates 254 schools, serving over 45,000 rural children free of cost. Other initiatives include the 'Satya Bharti School,' 'Quality Support and Learning Centre Programs,' and 'Satya Bharti Abhiyan' for sanitation.
In 2017, the Bharti Family pledged 10% of their wealth (approximately Rs 70 billion) to establish Satya Bharti University, dedicated to offering education to deserving youth from economically weaker sections of society.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, the renowned businessman, has been happily married to Nyna Mittal for many decades. Together, they are proud parents to a daughter and twin sons born on August 31, 1987.
Their daughter, Eiesha Bharti Pasricha, is a "lifestyle investor" residing in London with her husband, businessman Sharan Pasricha, and their two children.
The other son, Shravin Bharti Mittal, holds the position of founder and CEO at Unbound, a venture capital and private equity firm based in London. Additionally, Shravin serves as a director of Bharti Global Ltd, a London-based firm within the Bharti corporate family. In April 2015, in Delhi, Shravin tied the knot with Sakshi Chhabra.
Mittal's contributions have earned him several awards and recognitions, including the Padma Bhushan in 2007, the GSM Association's chairman's Award in 2008, and being named Asia Businessman of the Year by Fortune Magazine in 2006. He has also served in numerous leadership roles in industry associations and academia.
Sunil Bharti Mittal's journey from a small-scale entrepreneur to a telecom magnate and philanthropist is a testament to his vision, determination, and commitment to making a positive impact on society. His legacy extends beyond the business world, touching the lives of countless individuals through his philanthropic endeavours.