India's Airtel launches operations in Sri Lanka | business | Hindustan Times
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India's Airtel launches operations in Sri Lanka

business Updated: Jan 12, 2009 15:58 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Indian telecom giant Airtel launched its operations in Sri Lanka on Monday by slashing local call tariffs by 50 per cent of current market rates.

The Indian company's arrival in the comparatively small and crowded mobile telephony market in the island nation with four companies jostling for space is sure to herald cheap talk time for consumers. The current players have already upped their marketing strategy for selling their products and have promised cheaper packages to customers.

As the biggest Indian investor in the island nation, the telecom company would be investing $200 million in its operations here. More than 50 per cent of that investment has already been pumped in.

``Airtel will provide high-speed data transferring, video conferencing, and internet facilities. Our customers in Sri Lanka will get significantly improved tariff and services, which will include money transferring, mobile banking and mobile commerce facilities," chairman and managing director Sunil Mittal said at the launch.

The company has roped in actor Shahrukh Khan and one of Sri Lanka's top cricketer's S Sangakkara to be the brand ambassadors for Sri Lanka Airtel.

Mittal admitted that the launch here had ``taken us a little longer than we had planned. We should have been here several months back.'' While he avoided explaining the reasons, there were several reports here that said the current players had attempted to stall Airtel's launch in Sri Lanka, apparently fearing rate cuts.

Mittal said that he was both ``humbled and pleased'' with the ``overwhelming response in Sri Lanka in terms of pre-launch registrations.''

The company would be operating in five provinces in the country and will have 23 outlets across its areas of operation. There would be 12000 retail outlets as well.

Amali Nanayakkara, CEO of Sri Lanka Airtel said the mobile market has 50 per cent penetration in the country. That translates into 10 million mobile users in country of 20 million people.

The Indian company would be competing here with Telekom Malaysia's Dialog Telekom, Millicom International Cellular's Tigo, Hutchison Telecom's Hutch, and Sri Lanka Telecom's Mobitel.