Airtel banking on consolidation in Lanka

Shishir Sinha
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Sunil Bharti Mittal
THE HINDU Sunil Bharti Mittal

We have India roaming, long distance calls – we have already slashed rates, and the country [Sri Lanka] is enjoying the benefits. Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises

Airtel is banking on consolidation to strengthen itself in Sri Lanka. At the same time, it also wants to become the preferred operator.

The Indian telecom giant is one of the five operators in the island nation.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, said: “At the end of the day some consolidation – just like the case of India – will have to happen here also. I am predicting that there’s got to be some consolidation in markets that are fragmented.”

Currently fourth in market share among five players, Airtel is bidding to go higher in this market. “We are here not to stay at No. 4. We have India roaming, long distance calls – we have already slashed rates, and the country [Sri Lanka] is enjoying the benefits,” Mittal said while talking to Indian journalists at a reception hosted by India’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka.

Asked if he was disappointed with Airtel’s performance in Sri Lanka, he said, “I would not say we are disappointed. We are having 1.6 million customers. We came as the fifth and now we are the fourth operator. Our idea is to get to the next level.”

On the law in Sri Lanka, he said that the rules do not allow newcomers to play with the tariff, “which is an important tool. We are used to it, we are playing within that, we are growing within that. Yes, the flexibility of tariff should be there. That is our request to the government. But at the end of the day, you have to play with the regulation that is there,” he said, adding ruefully, “I wish we had a regulator back in India who would put a system there as well.”

The group, which has significance presence in retail, has no plan to diversify in that area here. Mittal said the Sri Lankan market was only 20 million people. The market was too small to put up a large scale retail facility.

(This article was published on August 6, 2012)
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