Vodafone Idea CEO Balesh Sharma.
Vodafone Idea CEO Balesh Sharma.

'Healthy competition', says Vodafone Idea CEO about Airtel, Reliance Jio

  • Three private players is an 'ideal scenario' in terms of healthy competition, says Vodafone Idea CEO Balesh Sharma, dismissing any possibility of cartelisation or duopoly
  • India's telecom industry has witnessed a spate of consolidation since Reliance Jio entered the market in 2016

New Delhi: Vodafone Idea Ltd, which is in the midst of a 25,000 crore fundraising, has said the Indian telecom market with three private players is an "ideal scenario" in terms of healthy competition, dismissing any possibility of cartelisation or duopoly.

"It is three private players plus one (BSNL and MTNL) and that is the ideal scenario to be. There are four players here...it is an ideal level of competition," Vodafone Idea chief executive Balesh Sharma told the Press Trust of India.

Worldwide, markets with three private players are known to be markets where constantly there is an ongoing war but a healthy level of competition exists, he added.

Sharma said a market with three strong players almost equal to each other "is an ideal place to be" as "they all want to become bigger and are fighting with each other".

"There is absolutely no concern for duopoly also...because I believe in a democracy all policy makers, politicians, and everyone understands that for consumers' rights there needs to be at least three strong private players and hoping that the government player also continues to be in that...," Sharma said.

Such a scenario will keep the competition level at an "optimal", he noted.

India's telecom industry has witnessed a spate of consolidation aimed at finding economies of scale after Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd stormed the market in 2016, ploughing billions of dollars into a pan-India 4G data service, offering free voice calls and data tariffs well below prevailing rates.

This triggered a massive consolidation in the telecom industry. Bharti Airtel Ltd, then number one operator, started the spate of telecom mergers by acquiring the India business of Norway-based Telenor. It has since then bought over the consumer mobile business of Tata Teleservices Ltd and broadband internet firm Tikona.

Last year, Idea Cellular and Vodafone Plc announced completion of the $23.2 billion merger of their India operations to create the country's largest telecom operator—Vodafone Idea—to take on competition from Reliance Jio.