Nilaj Mahalanavis, Circle Business Head, Northeast, Aircel

Nilaj Mahalanavis has his task cut out as Aircel’s business head for the Northeast circle. The company sees immense revenue and business development opportunities in the region and is currently in expansion mode, penetrating into new geographies and consolidating existing ones.

The Northeast circle, according to Mahalanavis, is witnessing an explosion in data services. “The data adoption rates in this circle are much higher as compared to other circles. This can be attributed to the fact that ­people in the region have limited choice in terms of entertainment, and data-intensive applications are a mode of entertainment here. Social media usage has also increased in recent years, which is driving data uptake,” he says.

Mahalanavis feels that his current job is one of the most exciting and challenging assi­g­n­ments of his telecom career. “The Northeast circle offers various challenges,” he elaborates. “Each of the six states in the circle has its own unique set of challenges. Some of the states have very difficult geographies and law and order issues, which make it hard to operate. Besides, there is im­m­ense ethnic diversity in terms of cultures, languages, etc.”

Mahalanavis has a diploma in marketing management. He started his career with Nestle India in 1990, later moving to ITC Limited, where he served as the centre head for tobacco and fast moving consumer goods for eight years. He ­joi­ned Coca-Cola India in 2003 as head of sales and marketing for Jharkhand and South Bengal.

His telecom journey began in 2004, when he joined Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL). During this tenure, he helped the company expand its services in the West Bengal circle and also headed the prepaid segment for Kolkata. He had a brief stint of around five months at Bharti Airtel as the company’s general manager. In 2008, he rejoined TTSL, working as the operator’s head of operations for the Assam and Northeast circles for around five years. He then worked at Reliance Comm­un­ications as the circle operations head for nine months.

Mahalanavis calls himself an excellent team player and considers this to be his biggest strength: “I jell well with people because of my communication skills. I have a collaborative management style wherein I take my team along with me.”

In his spare time, Mahala­na­vis enjoys reading fiction. He also likes to keep himself abreast of current developments in the telecom industry and politics. His family comprises his wife and two school-going children.