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Jan Campbell, MD, Ericsson India

February 15, 2005
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Jan Campbell, managing director of Ericsson India, has over 24 years of experience in the telecom sector. He has worked extensively in WLL operations, fixed telephony and AXE switch manufacturing. He has led the implementation of new technologies such as international private networks throughout Europe, developing the Swedish market for AXE switches and launching the first WLL network in Sri Lanka. In a recent interview with tele.net, he talks at length about Ericsson India's performance and its future plans...

What were the significant achievements of Ericsson during 2004?

We did very well last year in growing with this fast-growing market. We grabbed market share; we have done that for many years now in fact. We have seen very good growth last year. In this fast-growing market, a lot of new networks and base stations are being demanded all over India.More specifically, this was the first year of the "manage and operate" with Bharti. We now manage 15 of their networks. That was a great challenge and achievement, and we did that very well.

Were the company's achievements in line with the targets?

They were very much in line with our targets. We want to grow with the market and, if possible, faster than the market. We wanted to successfully launch "manage and operate" with Bharti and be the first to enter into such a deal. We also began our CDMA rollout with a few customers last year. The big ticket item was Bharti. It set a benchmark. For the first time Ericsson has made it possible to carry out such a thing in India. Everyone is looking at it. We have done it successfully despite the fact that there were many issues we had to deal with.

What agenda has the company set for itself for 2005?

Growth goes without saying. Number one on the list is to grow with the market, to keep the position. We have such a great leadership position and we would like to maintain that. We would also like to grow our portfolio. Last year we saw success in a couple of broadband contracts. We have the MTNL broadband contract and some others as well. It is turning into a big volume business for us. This will be significant for 2005, seeing that the need for high speed connections is growing.

What is the latest development on the company's manufacturing of radio base stations at its plant in Kukas?

The latest is that it is progressing fairly well according to the plan. We will soon have our first batch of base stations manufactured by the factory in India. These base stations are being produced for the Indian market, though there is no major difference between the base stations produced in India and abroad. It is just that we now have our factory, supply centre and logistics and distribution units set up here for India.Whatever we can produce here, we produce. Whatever we need to take in as parts, we take in as parts, and whatever we can procure locally, we outsource. We have many different contracts for the radio base stations in the territories where we operate.

What were the biggest contracts won by Ericsson in 2004?

The Bharti contract is the biggest. It is revolutionary. Besides that, there has been a huge increase in manpower at Ericsson.The number of people has increased from 450 to 1,111 as on January 1, 2005. This is by far the greatest in this category of business in India. The important thing to remember is that our people are found in all the states, we have people in every corner of India, unlike other companies where people are in one or two major centres. We have built our networks in all the states, several networks in some states.

Do you have any plans to expand your R&D initiatives in India?

I think we regard the R&D initiative with Wipro as our own R&D initiative even though we outsource it. We do our R&D with partners in India. We outsource to Wipro, Tata and several other players. It is increasing over time and will increase even more. We are building a standard for system integration for India and the whole region.

Could you tell us about the Ericsson Expander Solution that has been specially designed to help operators reach the rural hinterland?

This is important now because service providers have both urban and rural strategies. There is stiff competition in the cities. Most operators want to focus on rural or semi-urban areas. Almost 70 per cent of India's population lives in the rural areas and they lack connectivity –­ basic or mobile phones. Yet they have a lot of purchasing power out there. With the availability of mobile communications and the low tariffs that exist, these services can be spread to rural areas. There we have our Expander Solution. We can cover a much larger area. There is less rent and operational costs and therefore players can reach out much faster into the market with our solution. Capacity can also be increased to increase demand.

How do you perceive the Indian telecom market in terms of business opportunities?

This market is very interesting for us. It is a fast-growing market. We have a leading position in the market. Last year we ended up at position number seven in the group in terms of orders booked. So it is one of the top ten and is important to us.

What are the concerns that currently face the telecom industry?

What is very positive now is that we see an interest from the government that we do this kind of value addition. If you see government interest, then normally rules and regulations will support that also. I hope that now that we are carrying out more and more manufacturing activity, the rules and regulations will support that in the future. Also, taxes are coming down and we hope they will come down even more.The more it happens, the more will be the value addition.

What would you term as the strengths and weaknesses of the company?

We are a company that has been in India for 101 years. We are committed to the country. As a company, we do not commit to a market but to a country. We are in 140 countries across the world, and once we are in a country we never, never give up on it. I think this is one of our big strengths.

Our second strength is that our portfolio is so well matched to the needs of India.We are second to none in mobile technologies –­ GSM and CDMA. Now broadband and transport networks are becoming more and more important. There is a huge traffic that is building up in long distance networks. We have layer architecture, state-ofthe-art technology for that.

Out third strength is that we have a presence all over India. We recognise that India is not one country; it is many states and many cultures. Having people in all states gives us a lot of strength. We are very much an Indian company –­ one of the most important companies in the group.We work very hard to localise and train people, we strive for local content.

As far as weaknesses are concerned, we have weaknesses but we also have a good system to identify weaknesses and improve.Nobody in this company tries to hide anything, people are professional and open.They are allowed to make a mistake and it helps identify what you can improve upon.

How would you place the company's performance vis-A -vis competition?

Our leadership position makes us very strong. But given that, we definitely respect other players. In fact, it is the competition that makes it fun. Competition also helps the end-users ultimately. So much has happened for the end-user and that is really, really good. In this company, people understand the importance of the end-user. They also like to see growth. We feel it is important to measure the satisfaction of the end-user, not only locally but at the national level. And that helps to motivate people here.

What are Ericsson's plans for 2005?

In India, to continue to grow and maintain leadership. Also, to grab leadership in new areas such as broadband and to continue to be one of the most important markets in our group.

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