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Rediff.com  » Business » Sarin all set to head to the Himalayas!

Sarin all set to head to the Himalayas!

Last updated on: July 28, 2008 16:43 IST
Arun Sarin, a controversial albeit one of the most successful CEOs of British telecom giant Vodafone, will hang his boots on Tuesday to don a new gear for trekking in Himalayas.

Sarin, 53, quits Vodafone at the pinnacle of his career, accentuated by addition of India on the map of the UK telecom behemoth, amid speculation that he may get an offer from conglomerates like Tatas or a host of MNCs across the globe.

After heading the world's largest mobile firm for five years, a tenure that saw him grappling with demands for his resignation to the high points like takeover of Indian mobile player Hutch, India-born Sarin immediately plans trek to Himalayas before settling down in California.

Days before the scheduled voluntary retirement, Sarin, who often figured in global lists of most powerful business leaders, visited India along with his successor to participate in Vodafone-Essar board meeting, triggering speculation that he may join Tatas, but officials of the Indian conglomerate debunked any such report.

The British daily Financial Times said in a report said that "Sarin wants a new challenge, perhaps a mixture of business, philanthropy or a stint in public service - should a call come through from Downing Street or the White House".

Speculations have been rife about Sarin's next move right from the day Vodafone announced his departure two months ago -- spanning from possibilities of starting a PE firm, a public service role and taking up non-executive roles on boards of some large MNCs to heading some diversified business conglomerate in the US, UK or even India.

Chances of Sarin heading another telecom entity have been largely discounted after sitting on top of a company of size and scale of Vodafone and it is being said that if he

decided to take up the job of a CEO it was mostly likely to be for a conglomerate or an investment holding kind of entity.

However, all these are only speculations and during his India visit earlier this month, Sarin said that he was looking forward to a brief break "immediately" after his retirement on July 29.

"I shall come back to India... and proceed for trekking to Himalayas," he had said.

"He is most attracted by the prospect of investing his own money -- he has accumulated millions thanks to Vodafone share options and remuneration -- and of returning home," the Financial Times report said.

When asked about where he is planning to settle, Sarin told the daily it would be California. "That is where my friends and family are," he said.

After announcing his resignation on May 27, Sarin had said "I have come and done what I came to do," a statement that came immediately after Vodafone announced a record profit of over 6 billion pounds for the year ending March 31, 2008.

Sarin, who was a boxer in his youth, would be replaced by his deputy Vittorio Colao, a reserve Italian army officer, after the company's annual general meeting on Tuesday.

During his five-year tenure at Vodafone, Sarin, however, came a long way -- from being dismissed as a "non-descript bean counter" when he was appointed CEO to being hailed as a "bloodied victor" after scripting the turnaround story of the world's largest mobile operator.

According to market experts, Sarin's strategy has been going long on emerging markets like India and Turkey, cutting short on developed ones like Japan and holding onto the mature markets like the US and UK. And the new CEO is believed to take forward this strategy without any major change.

One of the highest points in Sarin's strategy is believed to be the multi-billion dollar acquisition of controlling stake in Hutchison Essar in India -- a market which now accounts for a major chunk of Vodafone's overall revenue.

Once opposed by investors in getting him elected to the Board, Sarin silenced his detractors with Vodafone's turnaround. During his tenure, the company's customer base more than doubled from 120 million to more than 260 million globally, while returns to shareholders also grew with dividends rising more than 400 per cent.

Further, the group's adjusted operating profit increased 5.7 per cent to 10.1 billion pounds, while its underlying earnings in 2007-08 grew 10.2 per cent to 13.2 billion pounds.

The Sunday Times recently reported that Vodafone's chairman John Bond made efforts to talk Sarin out of his plans to retire.

"Sarin recalled: 'He (Bond) said, Are you sure you want to do this? The board likes you, there are positive vibes. For me, it was about making sure he was comfortable with whoever was going to come on next," the newspaper said.

On the shareholders' dissent and calls for his head two years ago, the chief executive was quoted in a recent a The Sunday Times report as saying that walking away then "wouldn't be consistent with being a leader".

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