Airtel appoints ex-NASA executive Santanu Bhattacharya as chief data scientist

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NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telecom operator, has appointed ex-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.

Bhattacharya will oversee day-to-day operations of the Sunil Mittal-led telco’s upcoming digital innovation lab in Bengaluru that will focus on these emerging technologies, people familiar with the matter said. – Danish Khan

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 Reliance Jio.

In his new role, Santanu 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.

Bharti Airtel is currently 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.

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