RAJEEV CHADRASHEKAR FORMER CHAIRMAN & CEO,BPL MOBILE
BORN IN 31ST MAY1964. BIRTH PLACE AHMEDABAD (GUJARAT). FATHER‟S NAME AIR COMMONDORE M.K.CHANDRASHEKAR(RTD). MOTHER‟S NAME VALLI CHANDRASHEKAR. MARRIED ON 26TH AUGUST WITH ANJU. HAVING ONE DAUGHTER AND ONE SON. HOBBIES OF FLYING, SQUASH,DRIVING & MUSIC.
BE(ELECTRICAL ENGG.) ADVANCED MANAGEMENT PLACEMENT AT MANIPAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY MANIPAL(KARNATAKA). MASTER IN COMPUTER SCIENCE FROM ILLINOIS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY,CHICAGO & HARVARD UNIVERSITY, BOSTON (USA).
As a senior technology professional in the Silicon Valley at Intel between 1985 and 1991, was Senior Design Engineer of the team that designed and launched 32 bit 80486 microprocessor. Founder Chairman, BPL Mobile, 1994-2005 he founded BPL Mobile in 1994 and was one of the pioneers to invest in and build the Indian telecom sector. By 2001 BPL become India‟s Largest Operator without his having to go to a single politician or pay a single bribe.
He had many offers after he finish his degree, but he chose Intel over Microsoft because of VINOD DHAM‟s influence. In his record he says of meeting he attend where BILL GATES was another participant and discussion with LARRY ELLISON in Intel café. He was one of Intel‟s fastest rising star. In 1980s he met ANJU in BOSTON and decided to get married and took year of absence from Intel came back to INDIA.
COINCIDENCES His Father introduced him to RAJESH PILOT, whom he had taught to fly. Rajesh took him to meet Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi asked him, “Why not come back to India and help country for electronic revolution of twenty-first century?” He was having great time in silicon valley.
But somewhere in his heart, he knew there is life beyond blues.A life in BANGLORE.
When he first got into business in India , in 1991, he rejected the software option. In 1990s Mobile Telephony was not big in US. Rajeev found good partners in France Telecom and Craig McCaw. He used his father-in-law‟s brand name and bid for 1st round of cellular License. In 1994 he got licence and move to Mumbai from Bangalore.
He hired 1,000 sqft office in Arcadia at Nariman point, borrowed Rs100crore from IDBI. Staffed operation with youngster. Tried to drag India into cellular age. As according to his plan. In 1996, the telecom minster Sukh Ram announced another round of bidding. Telecom minister invited Rajeev. After first meeting Sukh Ram again invited him for second meeting, but Rajeev still failed to see the point.
Sukh Ram did his little fiddles to benefit Himachal Futuristic. His experience paralleled that of his software billionaire Bangalore buddies.
By 2001,BPL mobile was the largest cellular operation in India. Rajeev had become poster boy of the telecom revolution- the Intel engineer who came back to India to prepare us for 21st century. Then he makes mistake to get involved with what was known as Batata Conglomerate. Kumar Mangalam Birla, Ratan Tata and AT&T decided to come together and create a new company would be professionally managed and would have no controlling shareholder.
By merging BPL with big Batata Rajeev recognizing that his company would be the single largest shareholder in the new entity. An MOU was singed Chandrashekar sat back and did not invest further in business and waited for the new conglomerate to take shape. And take shape it did. Except that BPL was not part of the entity that eventually became Idea. In 2002, the MOU expired and Idea said it had no interest in renewing it. And having a great losses Chandrashekar got disturbed.
He said that „I‟m not going to point fingers at anybody. Let‟s just say the deal didn‟t work out.‟
The BATATA fiasco marked the end of BPL‟s national ambitions. Airtel raced ahead of BPL in the national marketplace. Chandrasekhar was back in news fighting for a very public battle for reform of the licensing policy. Few people noticed BPL had missed out completely on the bidding for the fourth licenses and had no Idea merger on the cards and BPL would certainly have bid for Delhi.
BPL lost his preeminent position in Indian cellular market. Even he was losing, he won the bigger battle for the cellular industries. The government agreed to migrate to a profit-sharing arrangement. His success in the battle made him less prepared to face WLL/CDMA onslaught. When licenses are issued, operators had been assured that nobody else would be able to offer cellular service. But Vajpayee govt. turned this rule by declaring that private operators who were offering fixed line services also offer cellular operation.
Provided they used CDMA technology rather than the GSM technology favored by the exiting operators. They said CDMA was a new technology. It was much cheaper than GSM.CDMA phones would be Janta mobiles. It would be available to a common man for a song compared to the expensive, rich man‟s GSM phones. These arguments still anger Rajeev.
He said-a) GSM chose by Govt. for us and not by us.b) CDMA is not latest technology.c) It is not cheaper than GSM. CDMA are more expensive than GSM phone.d) Reason it would be cheaper in India was because CDMA operators were not being charged the high startup cost that GSM operators has been subjected to.e) The moral issue is the GSM operators were paying for licenses to operate cellular services on the understanding that the market would be restricted to a certain number of players.
Finally, the GSM operators had their day in Supreme court and they win. It was good news for GSM industries but too late for BPL mobile.
While Rajeev was fighting these battles his company was going to drain and got financial problems multiplied. He was default to lenders and creditors lined outside the door. Motorola filed a winding up petition arguing that the company was in no position to pay his debt. It was the lowest period of Rajeev. Till 2001 his success story was same as any of the software engineer, by 2003 creditors were ready to close his company.
Chandrasekhar threw himself back into the business to pull BPL mobile out of the hole it had dug itself into. 2002-03 no growth had seen. Chandrasekhar determine to do better, in 2003-04 growth had been 14% and got 58% in 2004-05. He pulled company back from the brink. But the poster boy of telephony belong to Sunil Mittal of Airtel.
His father-in-law decided to fight Rajeev in court . The Rajeev position as described by the lawyers was that BPL mobile was his own business. He paid license fee to his in-laws for BPL brand but that was all. He refuses to say a word against father-in-law. He decided that he would treat it as a business problem not as a family dispute. July 2005 the dispute was settled as a family spirit.
He give up the BPL brand. He gave instruction to Morgan Stanley to find a 40% equity partner. June 2005 a good offer came from Ruias of Essar (HUTCH). He decided to end one chapter of his life. It was around $ 1.2 billion. He admitted that „I‟m now a very rich man and very comfortably off.‟ He had many plans at that time , looking for investments in IT sector.
He was just 40s he has still life in front of him. His story demonstrated that the middle class techies may do well with foreign customers but are screwed over much too easily by the experienced bania businesses. His career had two phases as we look what happened after2001. He got license in 1991 and in 2001 the BPL company becomes India‟s largest company without going to single politician or pay a single bribe.
He makes a valid point : „If we had offered bribe of x, they would have offered a bribe of 4x. We couldn‟t have bought our way out of this one . We had no choice but to fight.‟RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR‟S fighting days are over now he went on easy food and of course the VODKA, find more time for Lamborghini . He says he is relieved.