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Vodafone Idea’s struggles continue as it loses its CEO

Balesh Sharma, the CEO of Indian operator group Vodafone Idea, has decided to call it a day less than a year after it was created.

Sharma decided to step down ‘for personal reasons’, which could mean anything. There doesn’t seem much gossip out there but India’s Economic Times has a source that reckons Sharma’s departure was prompted by a perception that the merger between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular could have been managed better.

“Vodafone Idea had a top leadership strategy meeting last week, at which the company felt that failure to smoothly integrate the two companies soon enough and the resulting delay in rollout of 4G network had caused a ‘de-growth’,” said a claimed company executive who wanted to remain anonymous. The company needs to aggressively target customer acquisition. Also, only marginal synergy benefits are accruing. It is reflected by the revenue de-growth.”

Just the use of wonderfully corporate-speak terms like ‘de-growth’ alone is enough to convince us this is a legitimate corporate type, since no normal people use words like that. Since the catalyst for the merger, Reliance Jio, has gone from strength to strength in the past year it seems questionable to blame poor performance on botched integration. But corporate boards will always look to deflect blame away from themselves, and maybe decided it was time to scapegoat Sharma.

“I would like to thank Balesh for his leadership and the successful integration of the two businesses,” said Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone Idea Limited, possibly in anticipation of such a theory. “Under Balesh’s stewardship, Vodafone Idea has realised a significant proportion of the synergies in a much shorter timescale than originally estimated.”

To be fair the Vodafone Idea board has put forward one of its own to see if he can do any better. “I am pleased to welcome Ravinder Takkar as our new MD & CEO,” said Birla. “Ravinder is well versed with the Vodafone Idea business context and I am confident that he will successfully steer the company through the next phase of development and help unlock its full potential.”

No pressure then.


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