India's leading telecom operator, Bharti Airtel has appointed former NASA executive Santanu Bhattacharya as Chief Data Scientist to accelerate efforts around emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
An Airtel spokesperson confirmed his appointment and said that he will report to Harmeen Mehta, Global CIO & Head of Digital at Bharti Airtel, and will be based out of Bengaluru.
The appointment comes at a time when the telco is transforming itself into a major digital operator in the country to compete with the Mukesh Ambani-led 4G entrant Reliance Jio, which has been at the forefront of driving digital innovation since its launch in late 2016.
In his new role, Bhattacharya will be responsible for leveraging data science capabilities and deep analytics to understand unique customer needs and accordingly develop innovative products and services at Airtel.
Before joining Bharti Airtel, Bhattacharya worked with Delhivery. Having around 18 years of experience, he has served organizations such as Facebook and AOL. Bhattacharya, who has a Ph.D. from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, is an MIT Sloan and MIT Media Lab alum and BTech from IIT (Bombay).
Airtel has already begun hiring to bring engineering talent on board to drive innovation. ET previously reported that the telco had specifically chosen Bengaluru to dip into the large talent pool in India’s IT capital.
The Sunil Mittal-led telco has already established a large in-house engineering and development team of about 550 people that are focused on rolling out digital platforms. The new digital lab will house 150-odd tech specialists.
Currently, Bharti Airtel is focusing on identifying use cases around the fifth generation (5G) technology while conducting technology lab test trials in the country.
It will use its new digital innovation lab in Bengaluru to explore these 5G use cases with the help of start-ups and technology companies.