New Delhi: Vodafone today said it would invest two billion dollars over the next couple of years to expand Hutch-Essar’s reach in rural India, while promising cheaper mobile rates and better services to customers.
“We will try to get more rural areas covered with this investment. The money will be invested in infrastructure and various operations and for expansion of tele-density and reach to customers,” Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin told reporters here on his first visit after the Hutch-Essar win.
India-born Sarin said customers can look forward to cheaper call rates, better handsets and value-added services like banking and money transfer once it enters the country.
While stating that he expects to close the deal precisely in April, Sarin said the company would retain the Hutch brand for some time and that customers would be consulted before changing the brand.
“This (Hutch-Essar) is the biggest company in the Vodafone group in terms of subscriber base,” he said, commenting on Hutch-Essar, India’s fourth largest mobile player with 24.4 million customers.
He said he now intends to make Hutch-Essar the country’s number one player with a target of 100 million customers.
Mobile leader Bharti Airtel has over 33 million users.
Sarin, who graduated from IIT-Kharagpur, also described the deal as a homecoming. “This is what we used to talk during the IIT days.”
While Vodafone had bid 11.1 billion dollars for Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecom’s (HTIL) 67 per cent stake in the mobile venture, its actual stake acquisition would be only 52 per cent as the remaining 15 per cent is held by minority Indian shareholders who have opted to continue as partners.