Vodafone Idea banks on IoT, SMEs to aid biz

Vodafone Idea Ltd (Vi) is “banking heavily” on cloud, internet of things (IoT), fixed-line broadband and managed-security solutions—all part of its enterprise business—for new streams of revenue, the company’s chief enterprise business officer Abhijit Kishore said in an interview.

Vi has “aggressive plans” to strengthen its enterprise business by tapping small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which is a fairly large market. Kishore, however, did not reveal Vi’s target for signing up new SMEs for the products—software as a service (SaaS) or cloud, IoT, fixed-line data and managed-security solutions—wherein demand for bundled solutions has surged of late.

“SME and SoHo (small office-home office) are a clearly a focus for us. Going forward, we have an aggressive plan to strengthen this portfolio. The market is quite big and that is a pretty large area for us. We don’t talk numbers, but we have a large number to cater to on the SME front,” he added.

The plan includes its recent partnership with edtech firms upGrad, Udemy and Pedagogy, and health and wellness companies such as Mfine, and 1mg. For business-related help, Vi has tied up with Eunimart, Hubbler and Fiskl. The telco plans to onboard more partners to offer exclusive services to its customers. “The enterprise business is very central to our overall strategy. We see great opportunity in both large as well as medium and small enterprise customers,” Kishore said.

The enterprise business could help the cash-strapped telco, which owes thousands of crores to the government in back fees, to generate revenue amid the loss in its subscriber base.

In October, it lost 2.7 million customers, while rivals Bharti Airtel Ltd and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd continued to gain market share. According to Fitch Ratings, Vi could lose 50-70 million subscribers over the next year and it has already lost 155 million users in the past nine quarters. Earlier this month, the global credit rating agency said Vi’s plan to raise ₹25,000 crore, in equity and debt, may not restore its competitive position as the amount will not be sufficient for its capital requirements.

Analysts said the amount will enable Vi to sustain operations for a maximum of two years. Vi has so far paid ₹7,854 in adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, but still owes over ₹50,000 crore to the department of telecommunications.

Kishore said Vi’s enterprise business has been registering growth in semi-urban pockets, especially in tier-two and tier-three towns, even though its coverage model is to first tap small and medium businesses across some cities, then reach out to customers through its partners, and target those availing only retail services.

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