Sunil Bharti Mittal becomes first Indian to be knighted by King Charles III of United Kingdom

Indian telecom tycoon Sunil Bharti Mittal has been awarded Honorary Knighthood by Charles III, King of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth Realms, in recognition of his services to UK-India business relations.

Airtel founder Sunil Bharti Mittal
Sunil Bharti Mittal is a member of the India-UK CEO Forum; he has also been a member of the India Advisory Group at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Photo courtesy: X/@bhartinews

Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, which owns India’s second largest telecom firm Airtel, is the first Indian to be awarded the Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) by King Charles III, according to a company statement.

The KBE is among the highest honours conferred by the British Sovereign to civilians. It is awarded in an honorary capacity to foreign nationals.

Mittal, whose Airtel Africa is listed on the London Stock Exchange, in recent months led the revival of OneWeb (now known as Eutelsat), leading a consortium with the UK Government and other strategic investors to offer satellite broadband services globally.

He is a member of the India-UK CEO Forum as well as a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Circle of Advisors at the University of Cambridge.

Moreover, he has served on the governing body of the London Business School (LBS) and as a member of the India Advisory Group at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Commenting on the honour, Mittal, 66, said, “I am deeply humbled by this gracious recognition from His Majesty, King Charles. [The] UK and India have historical relations, which are now entering a new era of increased cooperation and collaboration.”

He added, “I remain committed to working towards strengthening the economic and bilateral trade relationships between our two great nations. I am thankful to the Government of UK, whose support and keen attention to the needs of business has been critical in making the country an attractive investment destination.”

In India, the Airtel founder had been bestowed with the Padma Bhushan award, the third-highest among India’s civilian honours, in 2007.

Sunil Mittal is in illustrious company of Indian recipients of KBE

The KBE, conferred for a pre-eminent contribution in any field of activity, is awarded in an honorary capacity to foreign nationals. While the Knighthood conferred on UK nationals gives them the title of “Sir” or “Dame”, non-UK nationals awarded the honour add KBE (or DBE for women) after their name.

Previous Indian recipients of the Honorary KBE include industrialists Ratan Tata (2009) and Jamshed Irani (1997), and music legend Pandit Ravi Shankar (2001), on whom the award was conferred by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

The investiture ceremony for Sunil Bharti Mittal will be conducted by the British High Commissioner to India at a later date, when he will formally hand over the royal insignia to Mittal.