Anand Chandrasekaran, who spearheaded the launch of several technology initiatives as Bharti Airtel’s chief product officer, has quit after a 13-month stint with the company. He is now exploring entrepreneurial opportunities in the country’s burgeoning consumer internet space.
Recounting his time with Bharti Airtel, Chandrasekaran said: “I am glad we could create a culture of building products within the company. The biggest compliment was that many of our products were not being compared with those of other telecom operators but with products built by internet firms.” June 10 will be his last day at Bharti Airtel.
Chandrasekaran was responsible for driving Wynk Music, APIs and Airtel Money along with the entire online business. He is said to have played a key role in developing Wynk, Airtel’s music streaming service that is carrier agnostic. Launched in September 2014, it was the telcos first cross-operator product which gave access to a huge catalogue of songs for customers of all operators.
During his stint, the carrier partnered with Google for Android One and went on to become the first offline partner for selling Xiaomi smartphones at its retail outlets.
In the last few months, Bharti Airtel has been in the news on the net neutrality issue. Last December, it had unveiled a special VoIP plan that would charge clients extra for internet communication services such as Skype and Viber. Airtel had to eventually cancel that plan. This was followed by Airtel Zero where app developers or service providers could pay the carrier for data so users could use their services for free. This move was seen as a violation of the net neutrality principle and thus invited a lot of criticism. As a result, some of the company’s partners such as Flipkart withdrew from the plan.
Chandrasekaran is said to have taken a lot of personal heat on the net neutrality issue when the controversy erupted. He refused to comment on the same. Chandrasekaran’s decision to quit comes at a pivotal time for Bhari Airtel, given that the carrier has started rolling out its 4G LTE network aggressively.
In a statement released to media outlets, Bharti Airtel said: “After leading the transformation of product portfolio function at Airtel, Anand has decided to move on to pursue his own business venture. He was instrumental in giving the function a new direction and has helped build products such as myAirtel App.”
Before Bharti Airtel, Chandrasekaran was Senior Director with internet giant Yahoo in California, US. Prior to Yahoo, he was Director of Product at Openwave.
In 2001, he had co-founded Aeroprise, said to be the world’s most widely deployed mobility solution for IT service management.
So what does Chandrasekaran plan to do next? “The consumer internet space is home to me and my next venture will be in that space,” he added, without providing details. Chandrasekaran sees a lot of similarities between the entrepreneurial culture in India and the US.
“In India, I see the same kind of energy that was on display 10-12 years back in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs there are proud of their previous failed ventures. I am glad that such a culture is catching up in India,” he added.
Chandrasekaran holds a MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a BS in Communications Engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore. In 2010, he was named by World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, a community of outstanding leaders committed to impacting the future.