Sandeep Girotra is the Head of Sub Region - India at Nokia Siemens Networks; he has over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, information technology, test equipment and telecom services industries in Indian and multinational organizations. Mr Girotra previously served in a number of important positions at Nokia Siemens Networks (formerly Nokia Networks) over the years including Account Director (Key Account Management), Head of Strategy and Business Development and Head of Sales for Business Solutions. Prior to joining Nokia Siemens Networks, Mr Girotra held key positions in organizations such as RPG Telecom & Shyam Telecom, Hewlett-Packard India and Tektronix India. Sandeep Girotra is an engineering graduate from Birla Institute of Technology and Science.
India’s telecom sector is growing rapidly; it is likely to generate as much as 15.5 per cent of the country’s GDP by 2015. The rollout of 3G mobile broadband will contribute significantly to other sectors of the economy and bring to life the country’s vast rural areas. Microfinance and eBanking services for the unbanked majority, eHealth, eGovernment, eEducation, smart power grids and entertainment are just a few of the services that 3G will bring to many regions for the first time.
The Indian telecom industry is a success story with no parallel; it is taking fast strides to enable the socio-economic development of the country’s billion people. As per a National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) report, communications is recognized as the fastest growing sector in India’s transformation from an agrarian to a services economy, recording a 25.7 per cent growth during 2001-08. Over the years, the share of communications in the Indian GDP has increased from 0.7 per cent in the 1980s to 5.7 per cent in 2007-08. It is likely to reach 15.5 per cent by 2014-15. The Indian telecom sector’s 764 million subscribers, one paise (there are 100 paise per rupee) per second tariff, 60 per cent population coverage and 3G are some achievements of Indian telecom’s shining story that we all can be proud of. This stellar success is a result of the great contributions from the entire ecosystem - government, operators, device makers, equipment makers and investors for believing in the potential of India, investing in India, innovating in India and doing their bit. With the ushering in of 3G and BWA (broadband wireless access), the local communications industry has the opportunity to take this success story to the next level by positively impacting other sectors and driving inclusive growth in India. We believe that the sector growth until now has been strongly driven by the ‘demand’ side of the market. Systematic and innovative work by key players created an entirely new ecosystem, which addressed an almost endless consumer demand cycle for connectivity. As a result a well-oiled engine ran at full throttle - enabling our industry to grow and evolve continuously to new highs. All in all - success came about with very well catered demand and supply equations that made good economic sense for everyone. 3G like 2G will also be a hit. We may see millions of subscribers being added in the same way 800 million got connected to 2G. Our telecom sector has done it before and will do it yet again. Unlike other growing markets, with an equally strong demand for communications, India is advantageously positioned for the future. A robust ecosystem with strong innovation capabilities and a massive subscriber base of 800 million differentiates us. Add to that, people in our telecom industry - engineers, entrepreneurs and business leaders- are assets unique to India. In the eyes of rest of the world, these factors constitute a strong force that can produce the next big success story, one that can drive the next level of socio-economic transformation. From linking gram panchayats (village or small town level self-governments) to shiny offices, from education to health, from microfinance to mobile payments - all are achievements beyond basic affordable communications. These are some areas essential to India’s development and they can be addressed by the telecom industry. In fact, the sector’s role must go beyond laying the links, but also taking the lead in uniting other industries such as health, finance, education and governance. Take microfinance for instance - if merchants, banks, operators, investors and suppliers come together, we can create a banking infrastructure for true financial inclusion. Imagine a team where investors contribute funds for India’s microfinance project instead of just telecoms. A team that telecom policy makers construct by roping in policymakers from finance companies, commerce and state governments, where all operators representatives think like one channel to the unbanked, where all suppliers jointly innovate to create a common technology platform, where public and private banks unite to define common operations. I am confident that this will enable India to reach out to the unbanked much faster and more efficiently. Players in this emerging ecosystem are already working together on some aspects like mobile payments, but largely through exclusive limited partnerships. A common integrated approach would work far better and provide the benefits of scale. There is a similar story in the case of mobile health, which can leverage telecoms to ultimately improve access, affordability and quality of healthcare. While there are many mHealth initiatives in play, they are still far from serving the needs of country of over a billion people. In agriculture, telecoms can play a role in integrating rural India with rest of the country and help widen markets, create better information flows, lower transaction costs. Though some farmers have phones, a lot still needs to be done in terms of educating them regarding how they can use mobile telephony to improve their livelihood. In education, telecom can ease the need for good teachers to be physically present in each remote school. The telecom sector can partner with the education industry to bring alive the dream of one hundred per cent literacy. One hundred per cent literacy in turn will trigger further growth for the telecom sector as a result of people consuming more services like SMSs. Smart grid systems, which can help supply the country with uninterrupted electricity 24x7 across the nation, even in remote locations, would also require telecommunications to coordinate and control power flows. Smart power grids are still in the early development phase, but with wireless technology, they can be built quickly and, therefore, reach more widely into both to urban and remote areas. India’s telecom story is still far from over. In fact, the industry now has the opportunity to play a much greater and more integrated role in helping the country achieve sustained economic growth by serving the needs of the masses.