After having served with the Indian Army for more than two decades, Colonel (Retired) Atul Sethi embarked on his telecom journey in 2012, joining HFCL. He was involved in the fibre roll-out of the company’s client, Reliance Jio. La­ter, he worked with A2Z Engi­neering Limited as president, projects. Until very recently, he was associated with Erics­son India as establishment director, fibre, and was working on the Network for Spectrum project of the armed forces.

“I was commissioned in the Corps of Signals, the communications and IT arm of the Indian Army, in 1989 and left in March 2012. During these years, I served in desert, mountain and jungle regions. I was also involved in ensuring communication in the high-altitude areas of Sikkim and Uttarakhand,” he says.

These years of learning helped him in handling some key projects in the corporate sector. “At Ericsson,” he recalls, “we were entrusted with fibre roll-outs for Sterlite Technologies in Jammu & Kashmir. Ericsson had not ventured into fibre roll-outs till then and it was our first such effort. Managing multiple stakeholders like Sterlite, BSNL and the army was a huge task. The work had to be done inside sensitive army installations, in inhospitable areas close to the Line of Control, and in snow-bound areas.”

Colonel Sethi believes that data has now become the driving force for the telecom market, and delivering high speed services requires fibre in the backhaul. The impetus, therefore, must be on the fiberisation of the existing towers. A major push is also required for projects like BharatNet, which would enable rural customers to get broadband connectivity. Going forward, operators will have to take on other verticals like advertising, media, internet provisioning and even software development. A big shift is also taking place towards AI and IoT, which will impact telecom.

Although Sethi’s management style is situational, he says he is not a micro manager. “I discuss the issues at hand and let my team find a workable solution.”

Colonel Sethi’s family comprises his wife, who is a teacher, their son, who is pursuing hotel management and aspires to be a chef, and his mother, a spirited octogenarian who, like her son, loves to travel. Sethi reads occasionally, loves to cook and enjoys trying out new cuisines. He is also looking to volunteer with some NGOs working in the sustainable development space.