The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BSNL asked to get its act together

New Delhi, Feb. 13: It is official now: Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) will be in the red in fiscal 2003-04 if the public sector telecom company fails to implement a few tough decisions taken at last month’s meeting of heads of circles.

Prithipal Singh, BSNL chairman and managing director, has told the chief general managers of the 26 telecom circles to implement a slew of measures on a war footing, howsoever unpopular, to improve the revenue generation.

On top of the list is the plan to ramp up revenues in rural areas and to undertake marketing and branding in a more aggressive and productive manner. BSNL has also decided to focus more on its cellular business to improve its financial performance.

The company has finalised plans to float a tender for three million mobile lines by next month. BSNL has raised its targets to provide full-fledged cellular service in 1,041 towns as against 750 towns targeted earlier. It is already offering cellular services in 897 towns and 150 towns will be added in the next two months.

“About 700 sites are yet to be commissioned including 200 on the highways. The Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana circles need 60-metre-high towers for highway sites. The company's telecom factory in Calcutta has informed us that it will be able to supply the towers by this month-end,” sources in the communications ministry said.

However, the company is likely to face resistance from the most popular sections of cellular subscribers — the pre-paid customers.

According to documents sent to the CMD for his remarks, “On the SMS front, there is no problem within the circle. But there is a problem in inter-circle SMS since private operators are not opening up SMS.”

“He wanted feedback from circles regarding the operators who have not opened up SMS. We will have to take special efforts to meet the targets. The indications given by the new communications minister is also aimed at improving the financial health of the company,” sources said.

According to the minutes of meeting among the heads of different telecom circle of BSNL, “The director finance of the company said the possibility of BSNL going into red in 2003-04 cannot be ruled out.”

The documents highlighting the points made by BSNL’s CMD also reflect that focus will be to introduce more customer-friendly initiatives.

“The CMD has suggested that all the call centres must be on the same model as set up by the private operators. He has suggested outsourcing of call centres and integrate all services. CMD also wants that the circles should nominate separate staff for maintenance if wireless in local loop (limited mobile) equipment,” states the minutes of the meeting.

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