Bharti Enterprises, the business group behind the country’s largest communications firm Bharti Airtel Ltd, and SoftBank Corp., a diversified Japanese telecom and communications giant, have formed a 50:50 joint venture called Bharti Softbank Holdings Pte Ltd (BSB), to focus on the mobile Internet business.
BSB will actively participate in the growth of mobile Internet ecosystem in India, with an emphasis on three key areas – social media, gaming and e-commerce. The new JV also aims to accelerate the development of India’s mobile Internet market, which has over 850 million mobile subscribers as of July 2011, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
The venture is being led by Atsushi Taira as the CEO of BSB. Taira has previously worked with companies such as Coca-Cola, DoCoMo AOL, MySpace Japan and also Yahoo! Japan where he was the GM, responsible for all consumer businesses such as auctions, premium membership management and VAS contents sales, and also handled all marketing activities of search, shopping, media services and the Yahoo! Japan brand.
In September 2010, he was appointed an as advisor to the CEO’s office and SVP of international business development at SoftBank Corporation to develop mobile Internet opportunities for Asian countries.
“India, which has emerged as the second largest mobile market in the world, stands at the cusp of another revolution – mobile internet,” said Kavin Bharti Mittal, BSB’s head of strategy & new product development.
“With a fast-growing economy, a large youth population and access to cheaper and faster data, there is a unique opportunity to build services ground up for mobile, especially in a country where the first screen for most is a mobile device. We are delighted to partner with SoftBank whose vast experience in this area will help us build and invest in services for India,” he added in a statement on Thursday.
Kavin is one of the twin sons of group chief Sunil Mittal, who set up a mobile applications development firm AppSpark two years ago. In his LinkedIn profile, he lists new product development, strategy (business & tech) and UI/UX design as his expertise.
Last year Kavin’s twin brother Shravin was inducted as an employee at Bharti Airtel’s Dutch subsidiary, making him the first of the siblings to join the group business.
Besides Taira and Mittal, the top management team also includes Madhu Nori (head of operations). Nori brings over 18 years of experience, having worked with several top-tier global wireless telecom companies. He joined Airtel in 2008 where he was responsible for the creation of consumer and enterprise data services with a focus on device-related innovations and mobile Internet services. He had previously worked with Sprint-Nextel and Verizon Wireless where he led key initiatives in the networks division and consumer data products group, respectively.
The mobile Internet space has seen various home-grown firms merge in India, such as the private-equity backed One97 Communications.
For SoftBank, this marks yet another big push into India. Last month, the company sewed the biggest ever deal in the Indian mobile Internet space by announcing $200 million investment to buy shares of Bangalore-based mobile ad network InMobi. The funding is planned into two tranches – $100 million in September 2011, followed by another $100 million in April 2012.
SoftBank, through some of its other group firms such as SoftBank China & India Holdings, also has exposure to firms like Bangalore-based Instant Collaborations & Software Technologies Pvt Ltd, Kreeda Game India, Reliance Digital Entertainment and Saankhya TechNeering Pvt Ltd.