Akshaya Moondra to replace Ravinder Takkar as new Vodafone Idea CEO next month

Kolkata:Vodafone Idea’s chief financial officer Akshaya Moondra will replace outgoing chief executive Ravinder Takkar next month.

This is the third top-level change in under four years at the loss-making telco, which has been fighting to turn around its operations amid a severe cash crunch.

“The board of the company has, based on the recommendation of the nomination and remuneration committee, appointed Akshaya Moondra, currently the chief financial officer, as the chief executive officer for a period of three years, effective August 19,” Vodafone Idea (Vi) said in a statement Friday.

Takkar’s term as Vi’s managing director and CEO comes to an end on August 18, the company added.

He would, however, continue to be a non-executive and non-independent director after the completion of his term as MD.

“He (Moondra) is well versed with the Vi business context, and I am confident he will successfully steer the company through the next phase of development and help unlock its full potential,” chairman Himanshu Kapania said.

Vi said a new CFO would be named in due course.

Shares closed 1.1% lower at Rs 8.93 on the BSE Friday.

The leadership change announcement came after market hours.

Moondra will be cash-strapped Vodafone Idea’s third CEO since the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular in August 2018, which created what was then India’s largest telco by subscriber and revenue market share.

Balesh Sharma became its first CEO after the merger, followed by Takkar who took charge in August 2019 for a three-year term.

The telco – which has never posted a profit since the merger – is now the third largest operator, trailing market leader Reliance Jio and second ranked Bharti Airtel on all parameters by a fair distance.

It has just about survived on the back of a government bailout package for the industry unveiled last September, which allowed carriers to defer paying thousands of crores worth of statutory dues, besides other steps.

Moodra’s elevation to the top job is also significant, in that, for the first time, Vi – the telecom JV between UK’s Vodafone Group Plc and India’s Aditya Birla Group (ABG) – will be led by a representative of the Kumar Mangalam Birla-led conglomerate.

Before the merger of erstwhile Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, Moodra used to be the CFO of ABG-backed Idea.

UK’s Vodafone Group had in January 2017 deconsolidated its India JV and has stopped infusing any fresh equity in it.

“Moondra is a top finance professional who is acutely aware of Vi’s business challenges, and his assuming the reins appears a sensible decision under the circumstances and could hasten the telco’s long-pending external fundraise ahead of 5G deployments,” Rohan Dhamija, head (India & Middle East) at Analysys Mason, told ET.

The telco has for long been trying to raise Rs 20,000 crore via a mix of debt and equity to invest in its 4G network to bridge the coverage gap with its stronger rivals, stem subscriber losses, and bid for 5G airwaves in the upcoming auction starting July 26, to avoid losing further market share.

Vi recently submitted Rs 2,200 crore as earnest money deposit (EMD), indicating that it would buy 5G airwaves. But these are likely to be in limited quantities and in its priority markets only.

Analysts also believe the upcoming 5G spectrum auction and beyond is likely to pave the way for rivals, Jio and Airtel, to buy ample amounts of 5G airwaves and make further market share gains at Vi’s expense.



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