Nearly ten days after he resigned from Hindustan Lever, Gopal Vittal announced internally that he was all set to join Bharti Airtel as special director (special projects) from April this year.
This will be his second stint at Bharti Airtel. He served as marketing director for about two years starting 2006, before moving back to rejoin Hindustan Unilever as executive director of the home and personal care division.
His exact mandate is still unconfirmed, but a story published in the online edition of Voice and Data
earlier today said that Vittal would drive Bharti Airtel's international business strategy and also build its data business.
Vittal is likely to spend a year with Singtel's Singapore and Australian business to orient himself with different facets of the business, before returning back to the Bharti HQ in the capital.
With the voice business having reached a saturation point in the large urban centres, data is expected to be Bharti's next big bet. It will also be be the next battleground in its fight with arch rival Reliance Industries, which is preparing to launch its 4G services later this year.
This lateral entry is also an important signal that Sunil Bharti Mittal's international ambitions are likely to grow beyond Africa. At the World Economic Forum at Davos, Mittal had said that his African operations had finally stabilised, after two years after Bharti announced it was buying the Zain operations
in March 2010.
Interestingly, Sunil Mittal serves on the Unilever global board as an non-executive director and is said to modelled his last major reorganisation on Unilever's global structure.
Insiders at HUL said Vittal had apparently expressed a desire to move to a more entrepreneurial assignment and had begun to feel the process-oriented multinational work environment a tad too slow-paced and bureaucratic.
Forbes India published a story few days ago on Vittal's departure
Image: Deepa Krishnan