Starlink India head steps down after government order

Sanjay Bhargava, the head of Starlink India, has stepped down from his role weeks after the Indian government ordered the SpaceX division to stop taking orders for the devices as it doesn’t have the license to operate in the South Asian market.

In a LinkedIn post, Bhargava said he was leaving the firm for “personal reasons.” His departure comes just three months after he took the job as country director and chairman of the board of Starlink India. Earlier today, Starlink India told customers that it will be issuing refunds to those who had preordered the device. [H/T: Anmol Maini of Keeping Up With India newsletter]

Elon Musk, SpaceX chief executive, welcomed Bhargava, a former PayPal executive, last year to Starlink India and tweeted that he “deserved a lot of credit for making X/PayPal succeed.”

A SpaceX spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Starlink, which has shipped more than 100,000 terminals to customers, shared big ambitions for India last year. The company has plans to deploy over 200,000 active terminals in over 160,000 districts in India by the end of December 2022, Bhargava said earlier.

The firm began taking preorders for Starlink terminals in the country last year and over 7,000 people signed up. Starlink was working with local influential think tank Niti Aayog to identify districts in India to conduct trials for the device. During his short tenure, he engaged with several industry stakeholders to explore ways to collaborate.

In late November, the Indian government put the brakes on those efforts after it ordered Starlink to stop “booking/rendering the satellite internet service” in the country without first obtaining the license. Indian telecom regulator TRAI also asked Starlink to “desist from soliciting telecom business and collecting related fees” without securing the relevant authorizations.

In its email to customers on Tuesday, Starlink said it had no clarity on the “timeline for receiving licenses to operate” in the country.