Abhishek Verma was born in New Delhi on 23rd February 1968 into a family that has served in Indian politics for half a century. Now aged 38, still single, Abhishek himself is poised on the doorstep of public service.
Abhishek’s late father, Shrikant Verma, was a leading journalist before the powerful Indira Gandhi inducted him into the Congress Party and made him a member of India’s Parliament in 1976.
When Gandhi returned as Prime Minister in the early 1980s, the articulate Shrikant Verma became the official spokesman and later the General Secretary of Congress Party. His job was tough but immensely challenging: it entailed holding daily briefings for journalists, brainstorming party policies and generally helping the party evolve. Shrikant Verma was considered one of the closest advisors of Rajiv Gandhi (Indira Gandhi’s son – who was elected the Prime Minister of India after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984).
From an early age, Abhishek received exposure in media affairs and pubic life assisting his illustrious father.
The elder Verma died at the Sloane Kettering Hospital in New York in May 1986, battling cancer.
Shrikant Verma’s mother, Minimata, was a Member of Parliament for an impressive 24 years, beginning 1950, until an aircrash cut short her life.
Abhishek Verma’s mother and Shrikant Verma’s wife, Veena Verma, served 14 years in the Parliament as a Member of Parliament and the Congress Party as the Vice President of
Congress Party responsible for ‘women’s wing (Mahila Congress)’.
Education, Early Professional Career & Philanthropy
After graduating from Hindu College in New Delhi and Georgetown University in Washington D.C., in 1989 Abhishek became Editor-Publisher of India Worldwide, a US-based monthly magazine co-published by the Indian National Congress’ overseas Chairman Kamal Dandona, allowing Verma to forge close ties with the dynamic leader Rajiv Gandhi who was ending his five-year term as Prime Minister.
When P.V. Narasimha Rao succeeded Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister, Abhishek rode the crest of business opportunities that arose largely out of the Indian Government’s vast liberalization measures, helping his fledgling company ESAM India Limited to surge ahead. ESAM launched a cargo airline, and soon after acquired several cargo aircraft from the erstwhile Soviet Union to operate on the Indo-Russian and Indo-Gulf sectors.
Riding on the success of the airline, ESAM launched initiatives in financial engineering, trade and counter-trade with Russia in a wide array of products and services, all of which contributed to a US$350 million annual turnover, between 1994 and 1999. Abhishek was featured on INDIA TODAY’s cover in 1997, Vanity Fair, and several other Indian and international magazines.
Entrepreneurial success allowed Abhishek to undertake civic initiatives in Bilaspur, a city in Central India from where his family hails. He installed over 150 electric wells to supply the under-privileged community with abundant potable water, established medical clinics, started mid-day meal schemes for school going children and through celebrity charity events raised funds for cancer treatment equipment for the local hospitals and donated funds to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and to victims of Earthquakes and for burn victims in India through ‘Shrikant Verma Charitable Trust’ a foundation setup in the memory of his late father.
Abhishek is also the trustee of Nehru Bal Samiti, a charitable organization for uplift of under privilliged children and this charity runs 6 schools in Delhi with 4,000 students. Mrs Sonia Gandhi has been the Patron of this organization for several years.
Recent Professional Initiatives
During the last few years, there were tectonic shifts in the world political scene, exponential growth in Indian and Asian fixed and mobile telephony, and the accelerating worldwide convergence between telephony, internet and television.
Abhishek’s focus is exclusively on telecom sector especially in India and Asia, comprising the countries belonging to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation SAARC (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives), in addition to Thailand and Malaysia.
Abhishek’s strategic focus on the telecom and media business has taken shape with Atlas Group of Companies, a global telecom powerhouse delivering services in more than 70 countries in the fields of international voice transport, interactive broadband content creation, IPTV technologies and 3G mobile services.
Abhishek is the Global Group Director for Atlas Group of Companies and the Chairman of Indian joint ventures Atlas Interactive India Private Limited, and Oneworld Interactive India Private Limited, both of which will contribute to the development of the Indian telecom and media sector by aggressively responding to the accelerating convergence between mobile telephony, television and the Internet.
In April 2005, during the visit of the Chinese Primier Wen Jiabao to India, Abhishek signed a historic investment deal with the Chinese Government during the welcome ceremony of the Chinese Primier in Delhi wherein the Chinese public sector telecom giant ZTE Corporation concluded an agreement with Abhishek’s company to invest US$ 1.2 billion for expansion of IPTV rollout in India as well as to acquire 3G mobile telephony license in several states of India, covering at least 60% of the population. This is the largest financial investment ever made by China in India.
Abhishek is based in New Delhi India, however he maintains a residences in London and Monaco. He has been linked to several beautiful women in the world, including Oscar winner Charlize Theron in 1994; a former British TV presenter Amber Ives; Helen Fairbrother former Miss UK 1996; Felecity Gain a British top model; Evelina Papantoniou former Miss Universe runner’s up of 2001; popular Bollywood actress Nagma; Samantha Taylor former Miss Virgin Atlantic Airlines; Simone Cronstrand a Playboy centerfold, Julia Lehnert a descendant of the erstwhile Austrian-German royal family.
Recently in 2006 – Abhishek was accused by the opposition political party BJP of receiving kickbacks of U$200 million in a US$ 4.5 billion Indian Military deal when Government of India purhchased 6 nuclear Scorpene submarines from a French manufacturer Thales. The BJP raised this issue in the Parliament as Abhishek’s proximity to the Congress party and a possible favour that he was alleged to have received in exchange for alleged payoff to certain politicians of Congress was reportedly enough to have swung the mega deal in favour of the French company Thales.
Abhishek and Thales thereafter denying all the allegations, sued the magazine OUTLOOK that first broke the story in February 2006 and thereafter Abhishek (sans Thales) sued for criminal defamation Mr. L.K.Advani former Deputy Prime Minister of India who campaigned against Abhishek asking the Government to register a case of corruption. Mr Advani is the leader of opposition in Parliament and head of BJP party, and Abhishek has managed to somehow silence the opposition political parties with his counter-offensive.
Abhishek has a reputation of part financing several election campagins of the political party that he is affiliated to. His connections with the Gandhi family are deep rooted due to his family’s association with them and on several occasions Abhishek has been accused of (by the media and his adversaries) of using strong political influence to achieve huge monetary gains. A charge that Abhishek vehemently denies! On the contrary people who know him closely on the admit that he can be the worst enemy and a friend of friends, as he and uses his political muscle, deep pockets and connections in the press and goodwill with the investigative agencies to ‘bury’ his adversaries at the first sign of any trouble!
If Political grapewine in India is to be believed, then, Abhishek Verma is being groomed by Congress to contest elections against L.K.Advani the BJP leader who accused him of receving kickbacks of $200 million in the Scorpene submarine deal of $4.2 billion last year. Riding on the crest of infamy that he received as his share for this deal – Verma has become immensly popular with the press and masses who regard him as some kind of Robinhood who distributes his spoils with the poor and the underprivilleged society of India.