India not enough - Bharti looks overseas

Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel, is set to expand his company's subscriber base well outside India .

This base has been estimated by analyst Gartner to be on an exponential growth pattern promising treble the number of subscribers - 300 million - by 2009. For one year afterwards, Bharti Airtel's market share has been forecast at 25%. 

Going against the present subscriber trend whereby almost all Bharti Airtel revenues come from India alone, Bharti Airtel has emerging markets clearly in its sights. Mr Mittal is personally confident that the company has the resolve as well as the finance to achieve its expansion. 

Support for Bharti Airtel has been identified from both Vodafone, which owns 10% of Bharti Airtel, and SingTel (owner of 31%). While there are opportunities to acquire shares in mobile companies worldwide, one of the ironies of the situation is that India's immediate neighbour Pakistan will not tolerate Indian investment within her borders. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are the remaining candidates, and so a move away from the Indian Subcontinent is called for. The company is therefore attempting to acquire African licences to add to a portfolio which currently includes Jersey Telnet and Telecom Seychelles . 

In an indication of the challenge to operators in established markets, SingTel is concerned that its revenues from Australia and Singapore are slowing. India will of course behave as the emerging market she is, her 7% of the population with mobile phones (IDC figures) well behind the Asian average of 23% - and ready to soar.


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