Voda’s Czech Head Balesh Sharma to be New In­dia COO

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit -

New Delhi | Mum­bai: Voda­fone Group is re­plac­ing its In­dia chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Naveen Cho­pra with Balesh Sharma, cur­rently head of the Czech Re­pub­lic, as part of ma­jor or­gan­i­sa­tional changes to bet­ter tackle com­pet­i­tive pres­sures trig­gered by the en­try of Reliance Jio In­fo­comm.

Sharma will take over from Cho­pra from April1, a com­pany spokesper­son con­firmed to ET. The chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer since 2015, Cho­pra’s next role is yet to be an­nounced.

In­dia’s No. 2 tele­com car­rier is fur­ther stream­lin­ing its struc­ture by in­te­grat­ing its com­mer­cial func­tions with op­er­a­tions, both of which will be un­der Sharma, a move which will help the com­pany be more ag­ile and speed up de­ci­sion mak­ing.

As part of the change, San­deep Kataria, who is the cur­rent com­mer­cial head, will now re­port into Sharma. Balesh Sharma has been the CEO at Voda­fone Czech Re­pub­lic since 2013 and has been with the com­pany since 2011.

Pre­vi­ously, Sharma has worked for Voda­fone in Malta, Delhi and Ban­ga­lore mar­kets. Be­fore join­ing Voda­fone, he has worked with BPL Mo­bile and Xerox.

The or­gan­i­sa­tional changes come at a time of im­mense strife for the telco, which has been strug­gling to deal with com­pet­i­tive pres­sures and a re­sul­tant bru­tal price war since the en­try of Mukesh Am­bani-owned Reliance Jio In­fo­comm. The chal­lenges in the In­dian mar­ket has trig­gered talks to merge Voda­fone In­dia with Idea Cel­lu­lar, In­dia’s No. 3 telco, through a share-swap to form an equal joint ven­ture.

A Voda­fone-Idea com­bi­na­tion would have about 390 mil­lion users, ex­ceed­ing cur­rent mar­ket leader Bharti Air­tel’s 266 mil­lion. The com­bined en­tity will also be the largest by rev­enue mar­ket share.

Com­pe­ti­tion with Jio, and to some ex­tent, de­mon­eti­sa­tion, dragged Voda­fone In­dia’s ser­vice rev­enue down 1.9% to

1.45 bil­lion (`10,556 crore) in the three months ended De­cem­ber from a year ear­lier.

De­spite its chal­lenges, Vit­to­rio Co­lao, group CEO, re­cently said the com­pany, with 205 mil­lion sub­scribers in In­dia, still sees long-term value in the coun­try.

Sharma to take over from cur­rent COO Naveen Cho­pra on April 1

Chaitali Chakravarty and Dev­ina Sen­gupta

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