Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular announced the management team of the combined business, which will be created through the merger of the two operators’ India units, with Balesh Sharma, currently COO of Vodafone India, named CEO.

Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group (Idea’s parent company), will be the non-executive chairman of the merged company.

The planned merger, which will create the largest mobile operator in India, is in the final stages of approval and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018.

Vodafone and Idea are the second and third largest mobile operators, respectively, in India, behind market leader Bharti Airtel. The merged company will have a combined base of about 405 million mobile connections and a 35 per cent market share (compared to Bharti’s 24 per cent), GSMA Intelligence Q4 2017 data shows.

In a joint statement, the two companies said they continue to make good progress in securing the required regulatory approvals for the merger. They said the existing leadership teams of both operators will continue to manage their separate businesses and be accountable for each company’s operational performance until the merger becomes effective.

Akshaya Moondra, currently CFO at Idea, was appointed CFO of the new company; Ambrish Jain, deputy MD at Idea, will be COO; and Nick Gliddon, director of Vodafone Business Services (India), will be responsible for the enterprise business.

Other appointments include: Manish Dawar, CFO of Vodafone India, to take responsibility for integration planning, governance and execution; Sashi Shankar, chief marketing officer at Idea, to become marketing and brand strategy for the consumer business; and Vishant Vora, CTO of Vodafone India, to be responsible for networks and overall technology strategy.

Under the terms of the original agreement, Vodafone will own 45.1 per cent of the merged business and Aditya Birla Group 26 per cent.