Sunil Bharti Mittal, the Chairman of Bharti Airtel Limited, had a lot to say about the Indian telecom industry during the Amazon Smbhav Summit 2021. According to a PTI report, the business tycoon said that Airtel had managed to grow its brand identity and market share despite going through one of its hardest phases in the market.
Mittal recalled the times when Airtel faced ‘near-death' experiences, including the one when Reliance Jio made its entry to the market with subsidised plans and free offerings. He said that Airtel had become a very healthy company by overcoming all the challenges that were thrown its way.
But his biggest statement during the summit was when he said that the Indian telecom industry is being reduced to 2.5 players only.
Mittal Might be Referring to Vodafone Idea
Mittal said that post-Jio’s entry into the market, around 12 operators either had to merge or go out of business. He said that the market had reduced to over 3 operators, out of which one operator’s future has become a question mark.
Even though Mittal didn’t take the name, it is clear he was referring to Vodafone Idea (Vi). Vi hasn’t seen profits or subscriber addition on its books for a long-time. The telco is struggling to make ends meet and has been unsuccessful in raising any amount of money.
Mittal said that for a country with 1.3 billion people, India now only has 2.5 operators. Mittal’s comments might seem rude to the Vi fans, but it is true. Vi has a ton of debt and liabilities but can’t even increase tariffs right away because of the market competition.
Vi can’t push for tariff hikes until and unless the whole industry pushes for it. This is because if other operators offer their plans for a cheap price and Vi increases tariffs, it would further hurt its subscriber count.
To recuperate from the heavy losses on the normal consumers front, Vi is now targeting the enterprise segment. The telco has announced Business Plus Postpaid plans, Internet-of-Things (IoT) offerings and more for enterprises to get hold of a different market segment. Hopefully, the telco is able to recover soon, and Mittal’s comments don’t become a haunting reality.