Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) was struggling a few years ago. Anupam Shrivastava, Chairman and Managing Director of BSNL with three decades of experience in telecom, is confident it will be revived to its past glory. In an interview with M Rajendran, he discusses the challenges and opportunities for the government-owned telecom company.
Can you highlight the strengths of BSNL?
BSNL’s inner strength is inherent in its people. Probably, over the years, this inner strength has been forgotten. We are reviving it. During last two years, we are focussed on making our employees realise their potential and positive results are visible.
Has that helped compete with private operators better?
It has certainly helped. The feeling — Yes we can do it — is palpable in the senior management and is percolating down to every employee. It required association of every employee, unions, staff, association, senior management.
How has BSNL competed with the private players?
With honesty in the system. Private operators are struggling on this front, especially while dealing with the customers. Our customers trust our product and services. If we say your telephone bill is for `5, people believe us. They know it is not `4.99. We also launched schemes that helped customers. From 9PM to 7AM, customers can call any number anywhere in any network in the country free of cost from BSNL landline. Both young and elders have liked this scheme. The results will reflect it this year. BSNL is the only operator to offer free roaming. We used to add about seven-eight lakh customers in a month now, it has gone up to two-three million. Broadband speed is up to 2 mega bits per second from 512 kilo bits per second.
But BSNL’s service quality has come under lot of criticism.
It is true that we could not match the growing demand with network expansion that did create some issues of network and quality. We are working on it and we do not lie. But as I said earlier, we are still a trusted brand. The circle heads are working to improve the services. Those in the South have done exceptionally well.
Did you lose customers to private players?
Initially in 2005, we led the market, but we lost a few thousand later, and now we have become mobile number portability (MNP) positive in favour of BSNL. Last year, more number of customers joined us through MNP when compared to those who left us.
What is BSNL’s market share in landline and mobile?
Overall, we have 10.8% maker share. In mobile, it is 10.3% (excluding Delhi and Mumbai) and 67% in landline. After free nigh calling scheme, we have arrested the decline in landline and in March we saw a negligible but important 0.01% addition in landline customers.
How do you relax?
I go for walk everyday and listen to music. Recently, I tried a karaoke and seem to have done a good job of it.
What is your message for the youth?
Everything in excess is bad and anything in moderation is good. Never stop learning.