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COAI announces its leadership for the year 2019-20

June 04, 2019
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The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has announced its leadership for the term 2019-20. The body has appointed Balesh Sharma, chief executive officer (CEO), Vodafone Idea Limited, as its chairman while Ajai Puri, chief operating officer (COO) (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel Limited, will continue to be the vice chairman of the association.

Balesh Sharma has a rich experience of over two and half decades spanning across cultures and geographies, building a strong track record of transformational leadership, successful turnarounds and leading for impact. Previously, Balesh has been chief operating officer (COO) of Vodafone India, among the board of directors at Vodafone India and a member of its executive committee. He was responsible for leading the circle operations, service delivery, marketing, commercial and enterprise functions including development of new business initiatives and driving innovation across the organisation. He has earlier held several senior management positions in India and internationally. Prior to returning to India, he was the chairman and CEO of Vodafone Czech Republic, where he successfully transformed the business and delivered strong market share growth with net promoter score leadership and strong employee engagement.

Meanwhile, Ajai Puri has been with Bharti Airtel since 2004 and has held several senior leadership positions including director – market operatioons, director and CEO – DTH, and CEO – Kolkata and West Bengal, Odisha. Prior to joining Bharti Airtel, Puri served as the business head - Foods at Cargill Foods India. He began his career with VST India Limited, an associate company of British American Tobacco (UK).

Commenting on his appointment, Balesh Sharma, CEO, Vodafone Idea Limited and chairman, COAI, commented, “I am honoured to take on the role and responsibility of the chairman of COAI. The COAI and the telecom industry have worked shoulder to shoulder with the government, policy makers and regulator to ensure that the benefits of the connectivity are accessible to all. Today, we have a billion connections, broadband availability across the country, over half a billion mobile internet users. An ambitious National Digital Communications Policy sets the course forward for the sector holistically. The focus now should be on driving an intense collaborative effort amongst all stakeholders to deliver on India’s ambitions, aspirations and potential. At COAI, we will drive a more concerted and collaborative effort towards this for we are deeply committed to translate the dream of Digital India into reality.”

Meanwhile, Ajai Puri, COO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel Limited and vice chairman, COAI, said, “The telecom sector is going through challenging times, replete with major consolidation, influx of emerging technologies, technological advancements, as well as impending opportunities. I look forward to closely work with the members and bring about positive reforms that will not only uplift and strengthen the financially distressed sector but also bring in sustained benefits to end consumers.”


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