• AUGUST 30, 2000

Bharti - No more an underdog

The liberalization of the telecom sector in 1994 has seen Bharti Telecom emerge from being largely a telecom equipment manufacturer to a telecom service provider. It has made this transition quite successfully insofar.

Bharti Telecom in fact, has hived of its equipment manufacturing business into a separate company, Bharti Teletech. The company now provides a slew of services including basic, cellular, Internet and plans to enter the domestic long distance service through broadband optic fibre network.

If this is not enough, it has ambitious plans of laying sub-sea cable from Chennai to Singapore. This will put it in direct competition with Videsh Sanchar (VSNL) as an international bandwidth provider. Further, the infrastructure will enable the company to enter into international telephony as and when it is opened to private competition.

For these various forays Bharti has amassed a war-chest of Rs 18.4 bn by divesting 20% stake in Bharti Telecom and Bharti Televentures to Singapore Telecom. This is the single largest foreign direct investment in the telecom sector.

The company operates its cellular business under the AirTel brand name. It has presence in the Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra and Himachal Pradesh circles. It operations in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are through the acquisition of JT mobile and it has been aggressively expanding its network in this region since it took over.

In basic telephony the company has presence in the Madhya Pradesh and was the only bidder for this circle. It now is the largest private fixed service provider (FSP). The ISP business operate under the Mantra Online brand name and has been awarded category A license. This permits it to have nation wide presence and it is currently providing services in Delhi, Banglore and Bombay.

While the recent success may give a picture of all being hunky-dory, the latest reforms (New Telecom Policy'99) will mean increased competition at the doorstep. Further, the sector is in the midst of technological revolution and in the coming few years Bharti will need some strong vision to pull it through.

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