India saw unprecedented market disruption following the entry of an extremely well capitalised and aggressive new operator [Reliance Jio], Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal said in the company's annual report for 2016-2017. Mittal said that the new telco's prolonged free trial offers created massive pressure on industry revenues and margins.
Mittal, however, said that Airtel on its part navigated this extraordinary challenge with a well thought strategic action plan and of course, sheer resilience. Amidst this massive industry shake-up, the telecom operator managed to increase its revenue market share to reach a lifetime high.
"Many small operators lost their bearings under the intense onslaught and consequently prepared to exit the market," he said.
Mittal added, "the shake-up also triggered an industry-wide consolidation process, which we believe could prove beneficial for the market in the long run."
Airtel during the last fiscal year witnessed considerable strengthening of its spectrum footprint both through buying at the latest round of auction and inorganic acquisitions. Besides completing the acquisition of spectrum from Videocon and Aircel in fourteen circles, Airtel also entered into definitive agreements to acquire Telenor India and Tikona Digital Networks.
"With these acquisitions, Airtel became the only operator in the country to have a robust pan India 2G/3G/4G spectrum footprint. Proactive rollouts during the year made Airtel the only operator in the country with 2G, 3G, and 4G services in all 22 circles," Mittal said.
Airtel rolled out 180,000 mobile sites in the past two years, making it one of the largest network rollouts globally. The telco doubled its transmission capacity and increased mobile backhaul capacity by eight times.
Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel's chief executive and managing director for India and South Asia, said that the fiscal year 2016-17 was an eventful year. "The entry of a new player in the industry triggered rapid consolidation."
Vittal said that while the industry witnessed a de-growth in revenues, Airtel increased its market share across most circles.
"We drove several new initiatives to drive market excellence this year. We launched instant mobile activations through e-KYC. We also rolled out a new retailer application - Mitra App which enables recharges and acquisitions through a single platform. With over 3.5 lac biometric devices, Airtel’s acquisition, and recharge platform have become one of the biggest digital transaction platforms in the country. Also, recognising the need to grab a higher share of 4G devices, we implemented robust innovations to build our share of 4G," Vittal said in the report.
Bharti Airtel had last year launched Airtel Payments. Mittal said, "Early days of the bank are encouraging, and with our deep distribution network, I expect the Bank to be a pre-eminent driver of financial inclusion and mobile banking in the country in the coming years.
The report also revealed that Mittal received a hike above 8% to get a salary of Rs 30.1 crore for FY16-17.