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Deepak Gulati, President, TATA DOCOMO

June 15, 2010
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Deepak Gulati believes that telecom is on the verge of a great transformation. He thinks the mobile phone, which has so far been a simple (though wonderful) communication device, is set to evolve into something that encompasses the personality of the user and is tailor-made for user needs and interests.

In such a massively diverse country as India, where education and income levels, tastes, language, religion and social status can be miles apart, and where consumer habits change every 100 km, the trick, he says, will be customisation.

"The consumer demand for content and applications that have been customised to usage needs will continue to grow, and operators will need to bring in localised applications that have been tailored around individual requirements," he says.

As president of TATA DOCOMO, Gulati oversees the company's GSM business, having successfully spearheaded its launch across India. The company has already reached a major milestone by introducing the pay-for-what-you-use concept. The goal in front of him is to simplify the lives of users and ring in services that are focused on consumer needs.

An MBA from Punjab University, Gulati has nearly 30 years of experience across various industries such as information technology, telecom, infrastructure, manufacturing and consumer durables. Having held various leadership positions across service industries, he is focused on differentiation in customer experience.
This trait has been the key to TATA DOCOMO's success in creating a strong and differentiated offering.

During his career, Gulati has worked all over the country and it is this knowledge of different regions and customs, customer trends and market movements that have stood him in good stead in the mobile telephone industry. He has seen this sector develop from close quarters, from its infancy when it was the preserve of the elite in the metros to its present ubiquitousness.

"There have been two big innovations. The calling-partypays regime and lifetime validity-fuelled growth in the telecom landscape," he says. "Today, the mobile phone has become a lifeline, connecting lives and businesses, and making communication easier. It has become an extension of the user's personality, relegating the venerable telephone to the status of a landline."

Given the pace of mobile growth, Gulati predicts that India's total subscriber base will exceed 700 million by next year. But even at this scorching pace, the total teledensity in the country is just 48 per cent, with a big chasm between the teledensity in urban India, which stands at 95 per cent, and in rural India, which is a modest 17 per cent.

"The rural sector will progressively become an ever more critical contributor to the telecom industry. Rural India will become a key thrust area as urban markets get saturated, and we will see the emergence of localised, regional and customised services, which address the way of life and the standard of living in such areas," he says.

Currently, the Indian telecom market is largely dominated by voice services. Valueadded services (VAS) are still at a nascent stage and have tremendous untapped potential. With the NTT DOCOMO partnership in place, TATA DOCOMO is expected to be at the forefront of driving the width and depth of VAS usage in the coming years.

With the advent of 3G and later, mobile number portability, Gulati says the next big trend lies in operators addressing the needs of consumers who demand "more" from their phones. With the NTT DOCOMO partnership and its expertise in 3G applications, he sees this as the second window of opportunity for TATA DOCOMO.

"3G will ring in a new era in telecommunications where services and applications will be customised to suit individual needs, and telephony will transcend the constraints of demographics and geographies. We will begin to see the mobile phone transforming into lifestyle infrastructure and becoming a tool for lifestyle assistance. The technology will facilitate the provision of services like video gaming, video conferencing, filtering, push-to-talk, comics and decomail on the mobile platform, thus enabling entertainment and lifestyle support," he says.

However, he sounds a note of caution, saying that for telephony to achieve these targets, it is important that India should be at the same stage of evolution as other international markets. The world is already moving on and India has to play catch-up yet again.

"My mission is to introduce India to Mobility 2.0 and lead the rise of services that move people beyond today's limited mobile experience to a full-feature browsing and computing experience at their fingertips through the next generation of technologies," he says.

"The rise of the new age of telephony will see the introduction of devices that will bridge the gap between notebooks and the mobile phone, bringing the benefits of a PC with all the applications, information and entertainment that users require from an ultra-portable handheld form factor."

Asked about which of his assignments has been the most exciting so far, he does not hesitate for a moment -­ TATA DOCOMO, without a doubt. The reason is that Gulati has always, from childhood, wanted to make a difference to society and help improve the quality of life of people. He is glad that the company has given him an opportunity to be part of a movement that is changing the way Indians experience mobile telephony.

"I am privileged to be part of a team that has trust and faith associated with the lineage of the Tatas and the technical expertise and international standing of NTT DOCOMO. The challenge of creating new benchmarks and charting new opportunities is a feeling that is unbeatable," he says.

In terms of his management style, Gulati considers his attention to detail and strategic acumen as his biggest strengths and his impatience as a possible weakness.
"I believe that for any business to be successful, the focus must be on customer satisfaction and result orientation. A strong leader is one who invests in nurturing people and relationships. I believe in achieving goals through balanced systems and processes, thereby ensuring talent benching," he says.

Gulati enjoys spending time with his family, watching movies and listening to music. "I love my gadgets and technotoys, and like to keep myself updated with the latest technologies and developments," he says.

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