Tanveer Mohammad, chief operating officer, Telenor India

The year 2015 was a busy one for Telenor India. It undertook a rebranding exercise and continued to expand its presence through vari­ous customer-centric initiatives. Tanveer Mohammad, chief operating officer, Telenor India, talks about the country’s regulatory environment, Telenor India’s achievements during the past year, its business strategy for 2016, and its future plans…

What are your views about the prevailing poli­cy and regulatory environment in the tele­com sector?

We are confident about the government’s intent to safeguard the interest of telecom players and offer a level playing field to operators, which will enable a digital India. The year 2015 brought clarity and broadly addressed various issues such as merger and acquisition policies. Spectrum sharing and trading guidelines were issued, and the government cleared additional spectrum for commercial use. These were significant steps taken by the government to enable a digitally powered economy. We hope to see the same trend continuing this year for us to offer affordable mobile services to connect the unconnected in the country.

What are your views on the regulator’s stance on the issue of call drops?

The matter is sub judice and we will not be able to comment on this. However, the fact that Telenor is the only operator to have offered compensation to customers in the past three years without being regulated to do so makes it the most preferred choice. Telenor India is a customer-centric company. We believe in making our products simple and easy to use, and deliver them over a good network. We are well within the network quality benchmarks prescribed by the regulator in our circles and have consistently invested in network upgradation. In 2014, we rolled out 5,000 new sites entailing an investment of Rs 5 billion. Last year, Telenor started an ambitious project to modernise and expand its entire network by 2017, to prepare for the next generation of high speed data solutions and to offer a superior customer experience. We are on track to swap all our sites with advanced technology and en­ergy-efficient solutions.

How has Telenor India’s performance been during the past one year?

In 2015, Telenor India reached the fourth position in terms of both customer and revenue market share, based on its oper­ations in six circles. We have around 50 million customers; of these, around 23 per cent access the internet. Our free life insu­rance scheme has seen 16 million enrolments, and nearly one-third of these have been insured and issued a free policy. Simi­­larly, our entertainment packs – offline video download and streaming music – have taken off well. In fact, we also achieved our target and modernised 5,000 sites by end-2015. All this gives us confidence for a good 2016, which will see us becoming a digital services provider and offering internet for all.

In October 2014, Telenor India became a 100 per cent subsidiary of the Telenor Group. With a long-term commitment to India and given our principle of ensuring one company, one brand, in September 2015, the Telenor Group decided to re­br­and Uninor as Telenor. We invested more than Rs 1 billion in the rebranding exercise.

What can be expected from the industry, particularly from Telenor, in the 4G space?

We expect data to drive industry growth in 2016. However, there is still a large segment of the population that is unconnected and needs basic voice services. We will see a healthy growth in 2G voice in the circles where we are present. Telenor India will continue to focus on the mass market, and will offer affordable voice and internet services to its customers. However, we have a vision of becoming a digital services provider in the long term, and our journey towards this ambition begins with internet service packs for Facebook, WhatsApp, offline video downloads and unlimited music streaming. In addition to these, through offers like free life insurance we will provide more value on every transaction. This will also help us align with the government’s financial inclusion agenda. We have a payments bank licence and hope to enable financial inclusion by delivering on our commitment to offer these services by end-2016. Currently, we have around 23 per cent of the users accessing our internet service and we hope to increase this number to 50 per cent by the end of next year.

What are the company’s growth and investment plans for 2016?

For us, affordability of our services is the key and we will invest keeping this in mind.  This year, we look to invest in network capabilities, innovative services and partnerships so as to stay relevant to mass market consumers. The year 2016 will lay the foundation for Telenor India to become a digital services provider for its customers.