Airtel picks new CEO amid exit talks

Airtel picks new CEO amid exit talks

Airtel Kenya has appointed a new Chief Executive Officer to replace Adil El Youssefi whose three year term comes to an end.

Mr El Youssefi, who joined the firm in 2014, will be replaced by Prasanta Das Sarma with immediate effect.

He joins the Kenyan outfit having served in a similar capacity in the Indian telecom’s Bangladesh unit.

Prior to that, he was the Hub CEO of the Eastern Hub of Airtel’s business in India and has also served as a Vice President, Network and Customer Service.

Confirming the change, Airtel Africa Raghunath Mandava said Mr Des Sarma would turnaround the Kenyan business operations.

“He has handled key assignments as well as business leadership roles with full P&L ownership. I am confident that under PD’s leadership, our plans will gather further momentum and we look forward to delivering an even better experience to millions of customers across the country,” Mr Mandava said.

He highlighted Mr El Youssefi’s achievements in creating a stable network.

“He has increased Airtel’s distribution and customer experience, including growing the network of our own shops. Adil also launched many innovative products that provided great value to Airtel’s customers,” he said.

The change comes barely two weeks after the country’s second largest telecom operator announced the second round of mass layoffs in a bid to prop up its operations.

Latest data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) shows that Airtel has a market share of 16.6 percent with 6.5 million subscribers on its network.

Safaricom continues to enjoy market leadership with 25.9 million subscribers.

During his three year sting, Mr El Youssefi ran a spirited campaign aimed at pitting Airtel Kenya against Safaricom with the aim of chipping at its market share.

At one point the outgoing CEO challenged the CA and the Competition Authority of Kenya to declare Safaricom a dominant player, a move he hoped would have opened up the playing field for Airtel.

“Airtel has not made a shilling in profit for five years that we have been running this network despite investing millions of dollars in the market. The reason is that the market is concentrated and only one operator makes profit,” Mr El Youssefi famously said in 2015.

The telecom regulator commissioned a study to probe the structure of the local market that is believed to be under review.

His departure also comes at a time speculation is rife with the possibility of Airtel exiting its African operations.

The Indian parent company has operations in 15 African countries including Kenya, which have been struggling.

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