Airtel has hit the headlines this time. Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telecom operator, has appointed ex-NASA executive Santanu Bhattacharya as the chief data scientist to boost up the efforts around emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

People close to the sources also stated the work by Bhattacharya which includes, of overseeing day-to-day operations of the Sunil Mittal-led telco’s upcoming digital innovation lab in Bengaluru. This would, in turn, focus on these emerging technologies, people familiar with the matter said.

An Airtel spokesperson, in fact, confirmed his appointment and said that he would report to Harmeen Mehta, Global CIO & Head of Digital at Bharti Airtel, and would be based out of Bengaluru. To this, Mehta added that “We are pleased to have Santanu onboard with us as we transform Airtel into a truly digital organization and start using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to solve real business problems”.

This appointment has arrived at a time when the telco is transforming itself into a major digital operator in the country to compete with the Reliance Jio.

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Also, in this new role, Santanu Bhattacharya would be responsible for leveraging data science capabilities and deep analytics to understand unique customer needs and then accordingly develop innovative products and services at Airtel.

To know more, Before joining Bharti Airtel, Bhattacharya has 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).

In addition, 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. Also, this 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 would be also using its new digital innovation lab in Bengaluru to explore these 5G use cases with the help of start-ups and technology companies.