Airtel Seeks Diversification of Services to Strengthen Position After ARPU Hit Record Low

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Airtel Chief Executive, Gopal Vittal has shown growing concern over the declining ARPU (Average Revenue per User) of the company. The senior official has highlighted that the ARPU has hit rock bottom and it is now in a situation where it can only go up.

He also remarked that the Indian telecom scene which was an eight-player market a few months ago is now a three-player market, with all the three telecom operators owning an approximately equal share of the pie. The three companies which Vittal was talking about are Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and Reliance Jio.

AIrtel Gopal Vittal

Speaking about the falling ARPU, he said "I think we have hit the bottom in terms of ARPUs (average revenue per user) and pricing. I think both have to lift from here and given this industry structure it will lift. At the end of the day, we want a profitable and sustainable market share” reports Indo-Asian News Service.

It is also noteworthy that Airtel is already running operations in 14 countries in Africa. As such, it is evident that the telco would resort to these countries to make up for the lost revenue. In this regard, Vittal said "We are looking at an IPO in Africa as a whole. We haven't decided on the course yet.”

He further added "We have 1.3 billion customers to serve and there are three private players. You can't ask for better industry structure than this. At present, Vodafone-Idea has 39-40 per cent of revenue market share, Airtel 33 per cent and Jio little over 20 per cent. In my view, in not so distant future you will have three equal-sized players.”

Vittal gave his viewpoint on a lot of areas. Speaking about Airtel’s strategy, he said "Our vision is to use the network to enrich the lives of our customers. There are three big strategic pillars. First pillar is strengthening our networks. We have invested Rs 24,000 crore in 2017-18 and same figure we are investing this year. We have tripled our network footprint. We are putting in a lot of investment in home broadband. We are also investing in automation network."

The executive also said that the telco was doubling down on the task of bringing 5G to the end consumers. Other innovations also seem to be brewing in Airtel’s offices as Vittal remarked that Airtel would be bringing Customer 360, a repository of all information of the customers. Recently, Airtel has also introduced a unified digital platform combining all of its services, unified under a single bill.

Vittal laid strong emphasis on the upcoming 5G technology. He said, "It gives better speed, but beyond the point of smartphones, you don't need more speeds. It gives lower latency, which is needed for robotics surgery and driverless cars. We have done (5G) trials in our labs in Manesar. We have seen the power of what it can actually do.”

The executive also did not forget to address the issues related to Aadhaar and e-KYC which hit Airtel Payments Bank in the recent past. Speaking about the controversy he Vittal commented "The bank had started off very well, but we got into regulatory issues. We are working very closely with authorities (RBI and UIDAI) and hopefully this will be back to business soon and start acquiring customers. Right now have 30 million customers in the bank and the wallet. Operation is continuing for existing customers, but we are not acquiring new customers.”

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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