We dont want to be a commodity player in India

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Jan 31 2011, 06:05am hrs
Few are aware but Alcatel-Lucent has been present in India since 1982, when Alcatel entered the Indian market with a technology transfer with ITI and became the first company to manufacture digital switching equipment. Alcatel-Lucent has contributed significantly to the development of the Indian telecom market by deploying cutting-edge communications technology throughout the region. Today, half of Indias fixed and CDMA wireless lines are powered by Alcatel-Lucent technology. India is also a major hub for the companys R&D activities, reveals Munish Seth, managing director for Alcatel-Lucent, India. Munish has over 21 years of rich telecommunications experience and has held several leadership positions within the organisation, before taking over the current role as head of India Regional Unit in August 2010. I have had a technical background throughout my life with a good mix of sales thrown in pieces. In my new role, I am trying to rediscover Alcatel-Lucent and take it to new heights, he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts:

How important is the Indian market for Alcatel-Lucent in terms of business

If you are present in the country since 1982, this market has to be very important. Ben Verwaayen, the global CEO reiterated the importance of India as one of the growing pillars for Alcatel-Lucent. We continue to grow our business here, but we are selective and a media shy company. In the last few years, we have done some significant work in the country. For example we built the first broadband network for the government. The first 3G networks are running on Alcatel-Lucent technology. The first business model of revenue sharing and partnerships with some of the operators was done by Alcatel-Lucent. Today through one of the outsourcing partnership of IP transformation we have with one of our customers, we touch the end customer along with them. Thats the value game for us and that has been our guiding principle in the last few years. We continue to invest in future looking technologies, because I believe India is ready for the next wave of explosion.

What kind of work is being done out of Bell Labs, Bangalore

We invest a lot in R&D in India. The major software development centres are located at Gurgaon, Noida, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. There are about 3,000 to 5,000 people engaged in global development and India forms the big pillar of Alcatel-Lucents vision of localisation and development of emerging markets, which we call high talent country. Bell Labs Research India is an integral part of Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent's world-renowned R&D arm. Our focus is on conducting basic research and developing novel software systems to deploy and manage high-speed, highly reliable wireline and wireless networks.

Do you have a localised strategy for the Indian market

At Bell Labs India, our goal is clear: We want to create cool new ideas that impact the lives of millions of people in India and worldwide. The research programme at the India lab continues the tradition of innovation and scientific excellence that is synonymous with the Bell Labs name. Gone are those days when you pick up a product that has done well and try to sell in India. Indian market is different, the user experience is different and Bell Labs has been actually focused in developing customised products for India and it is independent and not influenced by our products or the sales unit.

Is it something similar to the GE centre

Bell Labs for us is in a very different league. For instance, the job given to them in India was to solve the traffic problem and they came up with a product called Teleport, which uses some of the very native facilities of your phone, Bluetooth facilities and monitors your movement from point A to point B by small devices that are made up of set top boxes. These devices compute the amount of time required in covering a certain distance and give it as a service. It has already been tried in in Mumbai and Bangalore and has been pretty successful.

Similarly we took another problemrural broadband. There has been a lot of talk about it, so we asked Bell Labs whether they can come up with something different. They came up with a product that enables Wi-Fi to cover over 20 km. We are used to Wi-fi for a home; they used a different technology and encryption so that a town can be connected 20 km away through Wi-Fi, which is free structured, cheap and efficient. The interesting part is that although we are developing these products for India, there is a huge market for these products in the developed markets too. These are innovations that we are developing for a growing economy.

You are also a driver of LTE technology. Do you think this will add the next chapter to Indias infrastructure

GDP growth is directly linked to the broadband penetration of any country. Developed countries invest a lot in to the backbone to make high speed data possible. We just executed a project in Australia, which is again publicised as NGN. In India, the broadband connection is very low; we have missed our target for last few years. Long Term Evolution (LTE) is an enabler of broadband. It offers you higher speeds, well beyond what 3G offers, that is the reason why we call it 4G. Through the 4G trials that we have done so far in India, we have actually pumped 70 mega bits on a terminal and thats amazing.