Arvind Bali, CEO, Telecom Sector Skill Council

Dreams do come true. Arvind Bali, who nurtured a desire to help the youth of the nation twenty years ago through his idea of Campus Connect, finds himself heading a full-fledged skill certification organisation today.

“I had very simple, but defined life goals: A great life that involves traveling the world, meeting new people from different cultures and exploring new cuisines,” says Bali. “God was kind and gave me the skills to achieve all that I had set out to do. Over the years, while working professionally, I became very passionate about working for the youth,” he adds.

An accomplished business leader, Bali has managed various business streams and delivered globally respected outcomes during the course of his 35-year-long career. He has helped transform under-performing organisations with his strong analytical and communication skills, and strategic vision. He has served as director and CEO of Connect Broadband and, prior to that, he guided Videocon Telecom in its maiden journey to become a multinational brand, riding the prevailing wave of telecom growth in India.

So, where does the telecom veteran see the sector going in the near term? Towards increased digital adoption, he says, with major penetration at the rural level. “This digitalisation drive will create new economic zones and enable businesses to function even in remote areas,” he says. As far as technology is concerned, despite the fast growth of the sector, 5G will take a little more time to be deployed in India. Further, he envisions India becoming a hub for electronics manufacturing in the coming years. With companies such as Jio and Airtel creating home-grown solutions, the need for telecom equipment imports will reduce significantly, he believes. Bali does not forget to credit the government’s recent PLI schemes for giving the much-needed impetus to domestic manufacturing. He also highlights the role of the frontline work-force in the country’s digital future.

The Telecom Sector Skill Council (TSSC), where Bali is currently working as the CEO, is venturing rapidly into skill development in emergent technologies such as 5G, IoT, ML/AI and drones. These technologies, along with big data, robotic process automation, cloud/edge computing and cybersecurity, are the pillars for the future of telecom, he notes. They cover a wide gamut of services and operations, with both personal and industrial use cases. “The current challenges in skilling with Covid on the rise are mostly operational, such as conducting assessments while adhering to healthcare guidelines. We have already started blended learning modules to harness the power of digital media. In the coming months, we will add considerable manpower to the sector in response to industry demand while identifying new and upcoming job roles,” says Bali.

The company’s key strength is its continued endeavor to impart world-class skill training to the country’s youth. The company is a collective of industry experts, with corporate and traditional business expertise as well as subject matter expertise, all of whom have been a part of the ecosystem for a long time. “We are still a young company and are in the process of consolidating our efforts into a playbook that will propel us into the stratosphere,” says Bali confidently. He has been associated with TSSC for a long time and has seen it grow sizeably under a strong leadership. “Our young and dynamic workforce is chock-full of ideas and carry immense pride in their work. With new initiatives such as our in-house Learning Management System (LMS) and job portal (TelcoJobs), we are just scratching the surface of our true potential,” he says.

At TSSC, apart from routine business oversight, Bali is introducing productivity-building exercises through ideologies such as “The Kaizen Principle”. He is also a part of various advisory boards, consulting with promoters and their organisations in telecom, IT, and security and surveillance for performance improvement and strategic guidance.

With so much on his plate, how does Bali get things done? “Wearing so many hats at once means I have to rely on my employees to work as hard as I do. My aim is to make them capable enough to become leaders on their own,” he replies.

For someone who has expertise across most markets in Asia, the US and Europe, and who has handled several business verticals, including new business development, international sales and operations, international restructuring, value creation, new products and global supply chain, it comes as no surprise that Bali has a sharp business acumen. A commercial strategist and catalyst for growth and change, he has successfully managed the many challenges of executing Videocon’s business plans and product strategies, overseeing the brand’s venture into the dynamic telecom business in India.

Thankful for all the international exposure, Bali does not want to single out one memorable assignment over another, and credits his entire body of work for his professional and personal growth. “Handling business in 50-plus countries for more than two decades, I have honed my abilities to identify potential opportunities, deconstructing complex situations, and demonstrating year-on-year success in achieving profit and business growth objectives in start-ups and rapid change environments,” he says.

Bali takes inspiration from youngsters and has dedicated his career to their empowerment. “Whenever I look at them, I am filled with a sense of purpose that I have to make this country better for them,” says Bali. To honour the efforts of his teachers who shaped his future, he makes it a point to address youngsters through guest lectures on a regular basis. “In fact, it is a long-standing rule of mine that I have to address students through lectures a few times every year,” he adds.

Bali is a huge proponent of technology and likes to keep track of the latest advancements in tech. “It is a rapidly changing field that requires constant study to keep up with the most recent developments. I explore the internet for new technological advancements, browsing various news sources, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and exploring many more avenues. About 25 years ago, I was studying about LED and OLED technology. Today, I am looking at AI, cloud computing and other futuristic technologies,” he says.

A typical workday in the life of the CEO starts with a brisk hour-long walk, followed by a 30-minute yoga session. At work, he conducts all his meetings, manages the administrative tasks of the day and gets an overview of the daily functioning of the company. After returning home, he goes for an evening walk. The rest of his evening is dedicated to his family, eating dinner with them, talking or watching music competitions on TV. “Lastly, before going to bed, I spend an hour on the internet looking up new and exciting technologies,” he says.

His family doesn’t mind that he is a busy man. “All four of us lead busy lives with personal engagements as well as professional commitments. Whatever time we get with each other, we strive to make the most of it. It is quality over quantity for us,” he says.

A graduate in mechanical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, Bali also has an MBA from FMS, Delhi University. He grew up in the city of Karnal in Haryana and lived through some pretty exciting times, one high point being sharing the class with Kalpana Chawla through school and college. He was an excellent debater, for which he received many accolades. But what Bali cherishes the most is the simplicity of those times, when there were no computers or the internet. “The outdoors were our best friend. I played games under the sun, be it cricket, hockey, football or basketball. My father always guided and groomed me to focus on overall personality development,” he reminisces.

By Sugandha Khurana