It was a combination of circumstances

Updated: Nov 19 2005, 05:30am hrs
Ratan Tata has taken over as head of Tata Teleservices. Does this spell a renewed commitment in telephony from the groups perspective How will the group make up for lost time FEs Shaleen Agrawal and Pragati Verma caught up with Mukund Govind Rajan, director, Tata Teleservices on the groups strategies and future growth:

Why did Ratan Tata have to take over as Tata Teleservices chairman Was it because of the slow growth of the company

No. It was a combination of circumstances. The previous chairman Firdose Vandrewala was to exit from the company and thus someone ultimately had to take charge. Mr Tata took over considering the importance of the business and the quantum of investments made. But his taking over has certainly helped and has improved things. After Mr Tata stepped in, the whole organisation is charged for growth.

Why has growth been so slow so far

We did not have a large presence by number of circles. But now we have expanded to 20 circles (out of 23). Once you put all the infrastructure in place, it is very easy to pick up large number of customers. We were the last telecom operator to start and were fourth or fifth operator in most of the circles. Today, our rollout has reached a stage where we are working hard on penetrating deep faster. We have rolled out our networks in 1700 cities compared to 50 in 2004 beginning.

Why does Tata Teleservices have the lowest subscriber base among all telecom services players

We started out late and it obviously took some time to have network nationally and set our management team in place. Reliance has a two years headway and thus has a larger subscriber base.

Is there a change in growth pattern now

If you look at our growth pattern, we have done phenomenally well in last three months. The last one million subscriber addition for us came in just 40 days and the next one million will come even faster. You will hopefully see it in a few days from now.

Are you growing by getting existing customers to move to your network or are you growing the telecom pie

We are very bullish on market growth. We are relying more on churn in metros and bigger cities and new customers in other areas. Going by the 250 million subscribers target set by the minister, we expect 100 to 120 milion new subscribers to join in, which is a big enough market.

Will your new strategies allow you to tap the low-end market as well

India is a price-sensitive market and a huge chunk of the growth is coming from new areas. Many of the subscribers are first time users and affordability is the key to opening up new segments untapped by mobile telephony till now.

Now that Ratan Tata is at the helm, does this mean that the group now is certain that this is your main telecom vehicle and Idea takes a back seat

Ratan Tata had already shown commitment before taking over as chairman. We have invested $ 6 billion and plan to invest over $ 1.5 billion over next year. It was always clear within the group that Tata Teleservices would be our telecom flagship and Idea would be a professionally managed company.

Does this require a clear-cut management policy as well

It takes time to set up an 8000 people strong team. Besides having Ratan Tata at the helm of affairs, our top team in also in place. Our CEO Daryll Green comes from Vodafone Japan after overseeing their expansion in 3G. CTO comes from Telstra and marketing head from Tanishq.