Millennium Post (Kolkata)
Telecom market down to nearly 2.5 operators as 1 player increasingly becoming a question mark: Sunil Mittal
NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal on Thursday said the Indian telecom market is now down to nearly 2.5 operators as one player is increasingly becoming “a question mark”.
Airtel weathered three-four big crises, including disruption caused by launch of Jio in 2016, and has emerged out of market adversities in a healthy shape, Mittal added. Speaking at the Amazon Smbhav event, Mittal said Airtel had encountered “several near death experiences” in the past and had demonstrated that it is a company which will thrive even in crisis.
Airtel has emerged stronger from three-four big crises and has arrived in a very healthy shape, he said.
“...and of course last, the recent one 2016 the launch of Jio, as one of the most powerful competitors in Indian space, free service for a year, subsidised service for another year, predatory pricing, subsidised phones, all sorts of things, and there is no surprise that 9 of the 12 operators packed up, went bankrupt, merged with us or with each other,” Mittal said.
Without taking names, he went on to add: “And today we are down to three private sector operators, in which very clearly one operator is becoming increasingly a question mark. So for a country of our size of 1.3 billion people, we are now down to nearly 2.5 operators... and the last test we have passed again very well”.
Mittal’s comments may potentially revive the old industry debate around a risk of near duopoly in the market.
Bharti Airtel has been locked in an intense battle with India’s youngest and largest telecom company Reliance Jio for a greater slice of fast-growing Indian market. While the two players have been adding subscribers at a breakneck pace, infusing massive investments in networks and bolstering their footprint, Vodafone Idea has been suffering from subscriber churns and low realisation over past many months.
Apart from the three operators, the fourth telecom player is state-owned BSNL/MTNL.
Mittal recounted “several near death experiences” faced by Airtel, including the phase that company went through in 2003 “when the question was not if but when will Airtel collapse”.
Crisis loomed again in 20082010 when 12 new licences were given out, creating huge disruption in the market.
Citing the major crises, Mittal said Airtel pulled through riding the storm, increased its market share, improved brand loyalty, brand index and is now onboarding more customers than competition in the last 8-9 months.
“We have added new lines of businesses, we have accelerated our Fibre to Home, many many hundreds of thousands of new homes are being connected every month. Data centres business has come through.
“Our enterprise business is now clearly the leading edge business in marketplace. The DTH business has taken a lead over Dish which used to be largest DTH operator in market place,” Mittal said.
Airtel Payments Bank, the group’s “newest baby”, is making inroads in rural areas and tier 2-3 cities, he said.