If we don’t improve services, our customers will leave us: Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel MD
Ahead of the expected launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest telecom operator has chalked out a 10-point plan with a total investment of Rs 60,000 crore for the next three years.
‘Pricing and tariff is about competitive dynamics in the market. In India, the tariffs are low, but the cost of doing business is high,’ says Gopal Vittal, managing director of Bharti Airtel. (Express photo by Oinam Anand)
Ahead of the expected launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm, AIRTEL the country’s largest telecom operator has chalked out a 10-point plan with a total investment of Rs 60,000 crore for the next three years. The plan, called Project Leap is to make investments which will go into ramping up of its networks to improve service as well as address call drop issues, says Gopal Vittal, managing director of Bharti Airtel. “Ïf we don’t do (improve services) our customers will leave us.” Excerpts:
What prompted this Project Leap and such large investments?
Its not an event in time, its a journey. The event is the 20-year expiry of some circles. There was rotation of spectrum, swapping of networks. We are rebuilding the networks. Project Leap is about networks. It is the company’s plan to improve the quality of experience. We think in the next few years (services) will improve. If we don’t, customers will leave us. Bulk of the investments will be on capital expenditure. These will be for bolstering spectrum, mostly in towers and fibre.
We will launch Project Leap website to tell our customers directly and transparently…the real time progress on the networks.
The investments will be made from our internal accruals and free cash flows. Most of the investment will generate cash.
But why Project Leap now. Is the plan aimed at being ahead of competition, especially when Reliance Jio is expected to launch its services, which could hurt Bharti?
Every competitor is challenging. If we spend sleepless nights over competition, then we will become reactive, tactical and do the wrong things. The spirit is to improve the quality of calls.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has floated a consultation paper for the next round of auctions. Do you think the industry has the ability to spend more on spectrum? Where does Bharti see an opportunity.
We are studying it. For Airtel, there would be opportunities in 2100Mhz for 3G services, where we do not have spectrum, or where we want a second carrier. We will be looking at it.
What are your plans on spectrum trading? Last week, Idea Cellular finalised a transaction with Videocon Telecommunications, and paid a premium within a year after the latter bought the spectrum. What are your views on that.
From a spectrum perspective, we are well placed. We will assess trading. The fact was that there was a premium. Trading is not the only way to procure spectrum. We are not in a compulsion to pay a premium.
Does Bharti expect to increase headline tariffs or do you see a scope to reduce discounts.
Pricing and tariff is about competitive dynamics in the market. In India, the tariffs are low, but the cost of doing business is high. There is still massive discounting. There is an opportunity. Ultimately we want to reduce discounts rather than increasing our headline tariffs.