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Tatas tie up telecom loose ends

Mumbai, April 8: Four Tata companies have joined hands to set up a telecom enterprise business unit in an initiative they say will help deliver telecom services to key corporate customers in a cohesive manner.

Officials of Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL), Tata Teleservices (TTL), Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) and Tata Internet Services will be part of the team, which will map out strategies on marketing and ensure that the quartet works as a single unit for clients.

Initially, the cell will start work in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore; it will go to Calcutta, Chennai and Hyderabad later.

Kicking off with 100 executives, some drawn from the four companies and others from elsewhere, the unit will carry out specialised sales and marketing activities, serving as a single-point bridge between Tatas’ telecom services and corporate clients. The initial target is to win over 400 customers, a list that will start from big names and grow over the next few years. Within the business unit will be industry groups, which will devote themselves to communications solutions for industry groups like banks, manufacturing, petroleum, retailing, infotech and transport.

Tata Teleservices managing director S. Ramakrishnan said the unit has been created because firms prefer to deal with a single entity, especially when it comes to complex data solutions. The Tatas offer telecom services under the Tata Indicom brand-name.

Ramakrishnan squelched suggestions that streamlining marketing activities was a precursor to an eventual merger of the four companies. As things stand now, he said the group is only concentrating on integrating and opening a single window for customer dealings.

VSNL managing director S. K. Gupta said benefits of the new initiative would trickle down to small enterprises, though the focus is on the larger buyer-firms. Around 60 per cent of the revenues in the Rs 34,250-crore telecom market flow in from the big customers.

Ratan Tata had told the last VSNL annual general meeting that the endeavour would be to merge all Tata companies providing basic phone services. That meant a merger of Tata Teleservices with VSNL — the ILD major that has long harboured ambitions of being an STD player.

VSNL gears up

The Tatas have crafted a plan to match the aggressive rates offered by competitors of VSNL. “We have a strategy. It will not be appropriate to reveal it now,” said Gupta, whose company is facing the heat of the price wars unleashed by new rivals to ensnare customers in the ILD, internet, national long-distance phones and video conferencing.

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