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