"We want to triple Indian revenues in the next few years"
Francois M Barrault, president of BT International told M Rajendran that the company's objective in India is to position as the partner of choice for converged network services.india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 20:34 IST
Britain's BT plc is a familiar name in India. As the former British Telecom, it knows the terrain well but is now looking for a new role in services, with its specialisation in managing complex computer and communication networks for use in businesses like the media and information technology.
BT plans to generate $250 million in annual revenues from India by 2009 and add 6,000 more people to its operations. Francois M Barrault, president of BT International, the arm that looks after the company's activities outside the home base in the UK, told M Rajendran that the company's objective in India is to position as the partner of choice for converged network services that meet the needs of organisations spread across locations.
Q: BT has been projecting itself as a services company. Why the sudden focus, was services not a part of BT earlier?
A: BT was primarily a domestic player within a geographical area providing voice services. In 1994, when Ofcom (UK regulator), opened up the network to competition, it brought in a need for innovation and the need to look at the customer not just as a number but as someone who has a choice. This led BT to change its strategy. Later, since we were expanding outside the UK, the thrust had to be on services. We have made a big investment in 12 companies in the last two years and expanded our reach in 60 companies. So, the thrust on services is important since we have moved from a simple voice company to a worldwide services company.
Q: You had recently said that BT would adopt both organic and inorganic growth to accelerate its footprint in India, as part of your global expansion plans.
A: Our global revenues account for 37 per cent of our corporate business. We have grown 48 per cent year-on-year (globally). The Asia-Pacific business has been growing at 30 per cent per annum primarily due to the inorganic growth and we will not stop at that. We will continue to look at more inorganic growth. This is important for our growing customers globally who need different types of services using different technologies.
Q: So, BT, with a 3.3 billion-pound worldwide business will look at big acquisition in India?
A: It is true that we have grown with inorganic growth which has been around 30 per cent. But we are not going to buy a company every month. We will grow organically as part of our expansion and we will invest in India, China, Russia and Brazil. We are investing in management hubs and creating points of presence, so that we can serve continuously wherever our customers want to go.
I am in India, because we want to triple our revenues in the next few years. Also many of our customers in the UK and other parts of the world want to set up operations in India. Since we are in constant discussion with them, I know exactly who will invest when and where. So, it is in this anticipation that we have applied for an international long distance (ILD) licence through a joint venture company and have hired a country president and CEO in India, who is an Indian citizen.
Q: Which are the areas you would like to focus in India?
A: In India we are a very significant player and have invested $500 million here in the development of information communication and technology (ICT) infrastructure projects. We have directly and indirectly about 12,000 people and that would increase to 18,000 soon. More than that, we are focused on helping our large worldwide customers to take advantage of the information technology revolution in India. Many of our customers want to set up call centres, manufacturing facilities, business intelligence, trading and back offices. They ask us for the support.
Q: Do you feel that policy and regulatory issues in India are a roadblock for achieving your objectives here?
A: I have been very impressed with my recent discussions with Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran. FDI (foreign direct investment) in telecommunications has moved from 49 per cent to 74 per cent in India. Security is an issue worldwide, and when you are opening the networks there are certain milestones, and it takes time. BT's confidence level is on a high.
First Published: Nov 27, 2006 20:34 IST