Companies

Covid second wave has impacted business: Airtel’s Gopal Vittal

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 18, 2021

Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India and South Asia   -  Businessline

But hopeful of smart recovery

The country’s second largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel (Airtel) on Tuesday said it expects the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to delay the 5G auctions from December to early next year because of the pandemic, which has hit the whole economy.

“We were earlier in the impression that auctions would happen by December. This is what was formally mentioned to usWith the pandemic that has hit us, my own sense is that this may get delayed by a few months,” Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, India and South Asia, said at a post earnings investor call.

He said the way 5G device shipments are happening, the technology is not far away from the Indian shores.

Vittal said Airtel has also seen the impact of the second wave of Covid-19 on a large scale and many of its employees are also affected.

Another impact related to Airtel’s businesses is the financial pressures as migrants go back to villages where incomes and livelihoods have been destroyed. “Some of them are consolidating their SIMs – using one SIM between the family — may be the wife and the child are using one SIM,” he said.

Thirdly, the impact on customer acquisitions because of reduced walk-ins to the stores. All of these are having an impact in the businesses. Vittal said the company expects things to improve in the coming months, just like last year when there was a sharp recovery in June when markets reopened.

“Almost 90 per cent of India is under lockdown and the balance 10 is either in night lockdown or a weekend lockdown. We are really operating in a lockdown situation and there is a reduction in economic activities. I would say that given that softness that we have seen in April, we are currently preparing also for potential recovery as we see markets opening up,” he said.

The company is focussing on business continuity and this is being done through alternative channels such as chemists, grocers and online, which is now really meaningful with almost 65 per cent contribution of businesses comingfrom there, he added.

The company, on Monday, reported a consolidated net profit of ₹759 crore for the fourth quarter ended March, a 114 per cent jump compared to a net loss of ₹5,237 crore in the corresponding period last year.

Published on May 18, 2021

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