|Topic:||Building India’s new ICT environment|
|Title:||Founder, Chairman and managing director|
Manoj Tirodkar is Founder, Chairman and Managing Director of GTL Limited, a Public Limited Listed Company based in Mumbai, India. Mr Tirodkar won CII Young Entrepreneur Trophy for 2001 and was the first Indian to win the WorldCom Group’s World Young Business Achiever Award 2000 (WYBA). Mr Tirodkar was also a finalist for the 2nd Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2000. Business Barons-Taylor Nelson Sofres Mode Opinion ranked Mr Tirodkar as the 13th and 12th BEST CEO for the years 2000 & 2001 respectively. Mr Tirodkar is also a recipient of the 1996 Telecom Man of the Year Award and the ‘National Level Entrepreneurship Award in the IT Sector 2004’ from the Jagatik Marathi Chamber of Commerce & Industries.
India has a vision of becoming a developed country by 2020. Since the liberalisation of its telecommunications sector, India has come a long way. India has benefited from sustained GDP growth of greater than 6%, the longest running bull market in its stock exchange history, steady agricultural and industrial growth and a booming technology sector. Still, to realise its vision, India must focusing its resources upon building the necessary basic infrastructure, especially its telecommunications system upon which so much depends.
Since the first stirrings, the first awakenings, in 1991 of the liberalization era India and its information and communication technology (ICT) sectors have come a long way. Today India is counted among the fastest growing economies of the world with a sustained GDP growth of over 6%. India’s stock exchanges are facing a sustained bull run, the longest and largest in the history of the country’s financial markets. Steady agricultural and industrial growth and a booming technology sector have seen the transformation of India; its economy is growing in leaps and bounds. India is poised at the crest of a massive growth curve which will transform it into a global technology and services leader. India, although it faces strong challenges, will nevertheless find great opportunities, as it works to realise its vision of becoming a developed nation by 2020. Infrastructure challenges in the power sector, pitiable roads, crowded airports and the ever increasing need to provide employment to its burgeoning population are some of the challenges that India faces. Focusing its resources on areas where development is required is, arguably, the primary concern that India faces. Today, telecommunication is one of the vital links in the chain to India’s development. The country’s technology-driven global service industries have an ever increasing appetite for telecommunications systems and services to deliver its services globally. The rapid adoption of telecom services and the growth in India’s teledensity also points to the ever increasing appetite for telecom services. Simply put, India needs to be interconnected, both within and globally, to achieve its development goals. It is important to observe that the need to push growth through further reforms has been appreciated at the highest levels of government and deregulation in the industry is a step in the right direction. The revised National Telecom Policy has opened the roads for greater competition in this vital sector, has brought about greater clarity regarding the government’s role and has stimulated greater investment in the sector. Strong competition has brought down tariffs, has simplified the policy environment and has promoted healthy competition among various players. Liberalized, increased, FDI (foreign direct investment) limits make this sector an attractive option for the players in the global market. The new limits are bringing in the capital required to help the telecom sector’s companies to expand their operations and make investments to improve their technology. As a result of the reforms, there has been an explosion in the growth of teledensity in India, which today stands at 12%, representing 130 million subscribers. The wireless sector has been adding 2.5 million subscribers per month and it is highly probable that the total number of wireless subscribers will exceed 250 million subscribers by 2008. It seems certain that the tremendous growth we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. However, the country’s high taxation continues to be a drag on the growth of the sector and a rationalization is required on this front. The resolution of issues such as spectrum allocation, technology, telecom equipment manufacturing, research and development, value added service and quality of service should be given high priority. The reallocation of the 2.4 GHz range for wireless networking is a step in the right direction; it shows that the government has resolved to make the changes needed to sustain growth. Rural connectivity and increasing the rural teledensity from its current 4% are among the greatest needs of a country like India where 70% of the population is rural. Recent policy changes, such as allowing shared infrastructure in the rural areas, are a step in the right direction. This infrastructure will be provided by private companies to service providers based upon a shared services model. Shared infrastructure, and the sourcing of products and services from an integrated player, should significantly reduce the capital expenditure of the service providers and result in lower tariffs. This will, in addition, contribute to increasing the penetration of telecommunications in rural areas. The rollout of 3rd generation mobile services and convergence augur well for the sector. Exciting times are ahead as telecom service providers, cable-based entertainment service providers and others vie to provide fully converged solutions such as IPTV, streaming radio, Internet, cable TV and telephony services. Broadband cable already reaches millions of homes and offices across India. Emerging wireless technologies such as WiFi and WiMax will create citywide hotspots for seamless connection to the Internet. These trends in technology will help in further spreading ICT based services and will boost the country’s development. Private companies were early players enabling India’s telecommunication growth and have been operating on the wireless technology services front. They have set up gateways, VSAT networks, corporate and multimedia networks and were among the first to lay fibre-optic cables in the country. They have been participating in the telecommunication growth in the country by designing, building and managing the telecom infrastructure of the service providers. They have been partnering with the OEMs to provide the best-of-breed technologies and world-class project management standards to build the networks. Over the period they have built many thousands of cell sites across India supporting many millions of the country’s subscribers. Worldwide, the telecommunication industry is undergoing a fundamental shift as telcos are faced with increased pressure to control their capital and operational expenses (capex and opex) while managing the growth in network complexity, rapid technology change and new service introductions. Managed Network Services are fast becoming the only viable way for service providers to dramatically cut costs and increase efficiency within their operations. It is a great challenge to telecom equipment manufacturers and service organizations to continuously explore radical ways and means of providing a value proposition to their customers, while directly addressing their capex and opex needs. Increasingly, OEMs and their associated service organizations are resorting to off-shoring as a means of outsourcing as the only viable and cost effective alternative. There is also a need to spread information and communication technology knowledge to rural India to bridge the digital divide. Through various projects undertaken the GTL Foundation aims to help reduce this gap. One such project is “Project KNOW” to impart training to students in rural areas. Launched in May 2004, as a workable solution to spread computer education in rural areas, a modern fully equipped and networked mobile lab makes regular visits to primary and secondary schools and junior colleges situated in remote areas. So far, more than 15,000 students have been provided with basic computing skills.