The last few years have been tough for the telecom sector with intense competition, predatory pricing and slowing industry growth. But Idea has grown significantly during this period. How did you
manage to do so
From the beginning, our key focus was to concentrate on the task at hand and not worry about headwinds. While most operators focused on metros and urban markets, we focused on rural areas in Indias hinterland that had low telecom penetration. We never followed a secular allocation of resources and invested heavily in our 15 well-established circles. Today, we contribute over 30% of the aggregate telecom revenues of these circles and are among the top three players.
How big a role will data services play in your future strategy
Mobile data usage per subscriber on our network is 200 MB (megabytes) at present, and this should increase to 1 GB (gigabytes) in the 4-5 years. Our strongest franchise is our consumer base of 140 million people. Our idea is to transfer the life of our consumers from being pure voice users to help them have an online lifestyle. We spent Rs 21,000 crore to buy spectrum over the last three years both 3G and 4G. A large part of this investment was to buy spectrum in rural markets. We were among the first to reach smaller towns with a population of 25,000-100,000 with data services. We started our handset business to primarily supplement the current handset manufacturers who are more focused on urban markets. Our recent ad campaign, Uloo Banao, is focused around the digitally laggard customer and first-time users. While we havent made 3G investments in big metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata, we have made deep inroads in tier II cities like Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore and Surat. The one metro where we won spectrum and will soon launch 3G services is Delhi. We dont believe in trying to outdo competitors in large towns and metros, and would rather tap into underserved consumers in smaller cities.
Reliance Jio Infocomm is expected to launch competitive 4G services this fiscal. How are you gearing up for the competition
We welcome our rivals. There is lot of work to be done in terms of educating consumers and all operators need to work on this together. We will wait to see the impact that Reliance Jios entry will have in terms of bringing down prices of equipment and devices. With time, the 4G ecosystem will develop in India and reach an optimum level with low-cost 4G devices available. We are preparing for such a scenario. It is our assessment that such an ecosystem is at least three years away, if not more. Of the 15 circles we operate in, we have currently procured 4G spectrum in eight circles, which represents around 56% of our overall consumer base.
What sort of growth are you looking at
We are looking at 18-20% year-on-year revenue growth and plan to add 15-20 million subscribers each year over the next 3-4 years. We will manage our tariff policy so that we can continue to achieve this growth.