Airtel looks to strengthen digital business, eyes talent from Silicon Valley

hiring SiliconValley Airtel
Candidates waiting to be interviewed. Image by howtogoto | Bigstockphoto

Bharti Airtel is reportedly hiring more engineers to bolster its digital services business to take on rivals like Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea. These engineers are being hired as part of the Sunil Mittal-led telco’s strategy of “in-sourcing a large part of its digital processes”.

The telecom operator has around 1600 employees working on these digital services. The report said that Airtel is hiring people from Silicon Valley, engineering colleges and even NASA.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries has been aggressively building its digital business under Jio Platforms. After restructuring its digital business into one consolidated wholly-owned subsidiary, Jio Platforms was able to raise funds from global investors and technology players like Facebook, Google, Qualcomm and Intel.

Taking a leaf out of RIL’s playbook, Airtel recently introduced a new corporate structure and sharpened its focus on tapping the digital opportunities and monetising its digital assets in the future. 

According to a report by the Economic Times, Airtel has increased its headcount across its digital verticals by 150% to build digital products with “sharper customer focus”.

Gopal Vittal, CEO of Airtel, last month said that the Sunil Mittal-led telco entered adjacent areas to its core telecom business in a bid to better serve its customers, especially enterprise customers. 

In the last few quarters, Airtel launched its security, cloud and communication services through Airtel Secure, Airtel IQ and Airtel Cloud, besides building data centre business to its subsidiary Nxtra Data Centers. 

Vittal also revealed that Airtel was “insourcing” its entire SME sales force, which was earlier outsourced. The move, he said, will lead to an up-gradation of its SME channel capabilities, helping it gain enterprise market share.

The telco is also building our omnichannel digital capabilities. “..over 95% of its new orders for the product lines where we have begun this effort are coming through digital channels. This will also help us also expand reach and gain share,” Vittal had said.

The report said that Airtel’s new digital initiatives are led by two C-level executives, Adarsh Nair and Pradipt Kapoor. Nair had joined Airtel as the chief product officer after serving tech companies in the US for over two decades, while Kapoor recently replaced Harmeen Mehta as the chief information officer. He was previously serving Merck UK.

The hiring is taking place across verticals at Airtel. The report said that Airtel X Labs, which is developing new digital products, has been onboarding engineers while digital content businesses like Wynk Music, Airtel Xstream and Airtel Thanks are also onboarding talent to build these products further.

Notably, Airtel’s Chief Data Scientist, Santanu Bhattacharya, previously served NASA and Facebook and helped accelerate the telco’s efforts around Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. 

Under Bhattacharya, a team of engineers and data scientists built AI-enabled chatbots that talk to customers in over 12 Indian languages. The telco has 340 million subscribers across the country.

“Airtel Xlabs is the largest technology startup in India. Our engineering teams have been building using a lot of open source stack, solving problems ranging from distributed computing, high-performance mobile apps, voice bot, understanding customer behaviour, building recommendation systems,” Sunil Goyal, Head, Digital Customer Experience Engineering for Airtel was quoted as saying by the publication.

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