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Seminar: Vodafone COO on telecom sector at IME department, IIT Kanpur

It was a clear sunny afternoon of February and the students of IME department, IIT Kanpur were eager and enthusiastic to meet Mr. Ravi Santhanam who is current COO of Vodafone, UP East circle. An IIM-C graduate, he has previously held several key positions at Reliance Communications.

Mr. Santhanam talked about the present scenario of telecommunication industry. While presenting a macro level environment analysis of industry he talked about key micro level issues the industry is facing. He said, although telecommunication sector has seen phenomenal growth in recent decade and seems to be very lucrative, its growth is dependent of various infrastructural and regulatory issues. The sector is unique in terms of licensing, lobbying, high capital intensive, continuous investment due to technology change, rent-seeking behavior and fight for finite communicable spectrum. The fight for customers and “online-ization” of services like banking, ticketing etc keep the industry on its toe for continuous research and innovation to provide the best service to the customers. The provision like Mobile Number Portability has only increased the need of providing better-than-others services to the customers.

Coming to competition, Mr. Santhanam emphasized on the intensive competition that is being faced by the Indian telecom industry. He expressed concern over the unhealthy competition due to the presence of many telecom players. He said that the number of operators should not exceed 4 to 5 which is the case with other countries which are very successful in telecom as compared to India.

Telecom services deal with a lot of uncertainties. Policies have to be in sync with technology. Any change is technology would trigger radical changes in policies. The sector involves huge amount of dynamism - uncertainties in bandwidth, uncertainties in costs incurred in the services which delight the customers etc.

Mr.Santhanam then moved on to the basic mantra for success in telecom service offerings i.e. minute based methodology and value added services. It is easier for a common man to evaluate his expenses on number of minutes he used the service than the number of bits he used for GPRS based services and online applications such as Facebook. Migration for telecom from minute based to data based is challenging and unimaginable at this point in time. He said that since there is huge level of post purchase customer engagement in this sector, there is still a lot of scope in value added services which the telecom sector can think of implementing.

Towards the end, queries from faculty and students of the department churned out some interesting perspectives in the seminar. Mr. Santhanam concluded the seminar by citing the importance of maintaining uniform experience at all touch points in telecom industry.

Later, a vote of thanks was given by Prof Uday S. Racherla, IME department.


Contributed by:

Monica Agrawal
PR and Media Cell
MBA, 2013

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