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Interview with Leonid Musatov, CMO, MTS India

January 27, 2011
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 A new operator in the Indian telecom space, Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited (SSTL), which offers services under the MTS brand, commercially launched operations in three more circles in 2010. Since its inception, the company has significantly expanded its footprint and now addresses the telecom needs of over 80 per cent of the population. In an interview with tele.net, Leonid Musatov, chief marketing officer, MTS India talks about the year that was, the company’s future plans and trends in the telecom industry. Excerpts…

How has the company performed in 2010 vis-à-vis 2009? What have been its key achievements in 2010?

The year 2010 was very exciting for SSTL. There was a shift in our approach from a voice only strategy to a more data-focused, voice-enabled strategy. We were able to establish MTS as a leading internet and data brand in India. With commercial launches in three more telecom circles, MTS has significantly expanded its national footprint and now addresses the telecom needs of over 80 per cent of India’s population and about 92 per cent of the data market potential in the country. The company’s overall subscriber base has increased to more than 8.5 million customers and the number of mobile broadband users has increased to over 400,000. The year 2010 was also about the achievement of the highest customer satisfaction levels among all mobile operators in almost all our circles of presence across the country.

In terms of key achievements, MTS completed one year of operations in India in the early part of 2010. In May 2010, the industry body, CMAI Association of India, awarded MTS the National Telecom Award for being the “Fastest Growing Data Operator”. Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recognised MTS for having one of the highest percentages of satisfied customers for network performance.

What has been MTS’s business strategy? 

There has been a shift in our focus from a voice-only strategy to a data-focused, voice-enabled strategy. We are confident that data services are going to expand beyond the metro circles with people demanding real-time information and knowledge. We see the market expanding beyond the corporate customer to include SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and the youth segment.

Our uncompromising focus on customer satisfaction, continuous expansion of our telecom product portfolio and leadership in mobile broadband coverage will enable us to retain and grow our leadership position in the telecom data segment.

MTS currently offers high-speed mobile broadband services under its flagship brand MBlaze. MBlaze has the largest footprint in terms of high-speed mobile broadband service in India, covering more than 100 cities, including five metros, across India.

What are the challenges and concerns that need to be addressed going forward? 

All businesses come with their own set of challenges. In India, these challenges are even more pronounced, be it on account of the state of infrastructural development, level of intense competition and an ever-growing crunch in the availability of quality human resources. It is also essential to stick to lean cost structures. In addition, a continuously evolving regulatory framework is also a variable, which needs to be factored in while drawing up business plans.

India as a market is very diverse. What works globally might not work locally in India. It is thus important to think globally but act locally, given the size of the country and its rich diversity.

How many active subscribers does SSTL have currently? 

SSTL is a joint venture between Sistema of Russia and the Shyam Group of India. Sistema is the majority shareholder in this joint venture and provides telecom services under the MTS brand. The company is recognised as being amongst the fastest growing telecom companies in the country, with more than 9 million voice subscribers and more than 450,000 mobile broadband customers.

What share of the Indian population is covered by SSTL’s network and how many circles is the company currently present in? 

SSTL offers voice and mobile broadband services to 80 per cent of India’s population and addresses about 92 per cent of the data market potential in the country. Our network is rolled out in all 22 telecom circles of the country and is being constantly enhanced.

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