Voda­fone Wants to be Fit & Nim­ble for Bat­tle Ahead, Re­jigs Busi­ness

Mea­sures to help the tele­com op­er­a­tor make de­ci­sions faster and in a more holis­tic man­ner

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit -

Deepali Gupta & Dev­ina Sen­gupta

Mum­bai: Voda­fone In­dia is car­ry­ing out or­gan­i­sa­tional changes at the top while deal­ing with a few ex­its, in­clud­ing the likely de­par­ture of M-Pesa head Suresh Sethi, as it pre­pares for a dogged fight in the In­dian mar­ket at a time it is in­volved in merger talks with Idea Cel­lu­lar to cre­ate the coun­try’s largest tele­com ser­vice provider.

The coun­try’s sec­ond largest tele­com ser­vice provider has stream­lined its com­mer­cial and en­ter­prise busi­ness un­der the newly-ap­pointed chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Balesh Sharma, as re­ported by ET on Fe­bru­ary 6. Sharma, who was the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Voda­fone Czech Republic, re­places Naveen Cho­pra, who is ex­pected to get a new role from 1st of April.

The unit cur­rently headed by Nick Glid­don was set up by Naveen Cho­pra over five years ago. “His pas­sion and com­mit­ment to the post-paid busi­ness lies at the core of Voda­fone’s eq­uity,” said an email from Voda­fone In­dia CEO Su­nil Sood to em­ploy­ees.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant step is to bring the role of chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer un­der the COO. The post of CMO was carved out in 2012 to fo­cus on cus­tomer qual­ity as an in- de­pen­dent unit, re­port­ing di­rectly to the CEO. The cur­rent CMO, San­deep Kataria, will now re­port to the COO. Ravi San­thanam, who heads cus­tomer value man­age­ment, a role that re­ported to the chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer, has re­signed and is ex­pected to join a pri­vate sec­tor bank.

De­clin­ing to com­ment on spe­cific queries, the Voda­fone spokesman said it was busi­ness as usual.

The steps are ex­pected to help the com­pany make de­ci­sions faster and in a more holis­tic man­ner. This would also help Voda­fone in­te­grate com­mer­cial strat­egy with op­er­a­tional teams more ef­fec­tively, said a per­son fa­mil­iar with the de­vel­op­ment.

A cir­cle chief ET in­ter­viewed said that he was los­ing cus­tomers to Bharti Air­tel be­cause of the rival’s abil­ity to of­fer at­trac­tive plans faster, while he needed ap­provals from the cen­tre, which would take days. An­other per­son fa­mil­iar with the moves said the com­pany might be plan­ning to in­fuse some “fresh blood” into the team that has led the or­gan­i­sa­tion for most of the past ten years. “The aim is to give the younger mem­bers in the Voda-

The com­pany has brought the chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer un­der COO as part of re­struc­tur­ing ex­er­cise

fone fam­ily a chance to rise, and tap the Voda­fone fast-track ca­reer pro­grammes,” he said.

In the Delhi cir­cle, a key mar­ket where Bharti Air­tel is the dom­i­nant player, Voda­fone is bring­ing in Alok Verma, who was so far head­ing the As­sam and North East cir­cle. Nidhi Lau­ria, who was the sales and mar­ket­ing head in Delhi, will re­place him, be­com­ing the first woman cir­cle chief for Voda­fone. Erst­while Delhi cir­cle chief Apoorva Mehro­tra has quit the com­pany and is said to be re­lo­cat­ing out of the coun­try, which ET could not in­de­pen­dently ver­ify.

Sethi May Leave

Among other changes, Suresh Sethi, head of M-Pesa and in charge of ready­ing the pay­ments bank, is set to leave soon.

Voda­fone In­dia had ap­pointed Rahul Bha­gat as an ad­vi­sor for the process. “We have not made any an­nounce­ment — in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal — re­gard­ing Suresh Sethi. He is cur­rently the M-Pesa head,” said the com­pany. The changes have led to talk that the com­pany may forgo its pay­ments bank li­cence.

A per­son fa­mil­iar with de­tails said no de­ci­sion has been taken yet. The com­pany hasn’t found an In­dian part­ner for the banking ven­ture and if the Idea merger goes through, the ex­er­cise may be­come ir­rel­e­vant, he said.

“As stated in the past, we are on track to ful­fil our am­bi­tion re­gard­ing pay­ments bank,” the compa-

ny said. Voda­fone has been lag­ging in growth and in­dus­try ex­perts have at­trib­uted this to a lack of de­ci­sion mak­ing.

In the quar­ter ended De­cem­ber 31, Voda­fone In­dia’s ser­vice rev­enue fell 1.9% to 1.45 bil­lion (`10,556 crore), and the com­pany at­trib­uted it to com­pe­ti­tion from Jio and to some ex­tent de­mon­eti­sa­tion. The changes come after the com­pany and the Birla group said on Jan­uary 30 that they were in talks to merge mo­bile ser­vices that would cre­ate the coun­try’s largest mo­bile phone com­pany by sub­scribers and rev­enue mar­ket share.

Voda­fone said a merger would re­sult in the UK par­ent sep­a­rat­ing its In­dia unit fi­nan­cial re­port­ing from its global one.

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