The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Get set for the Vodafone way

London, Feb. 12: Ways in which Indian consumers can benefit following Vodafone’s decision to take a controlling stake in Hutchison Essar were outlined today.

Cheaper and fancy handsets, especially ones carried as fashion accessories by women, 3-G phones, broadband, convergence between personal computers and mobile phones, and links with ebay, the Internet auction site, MySpace and YouTube should, in theory, all be available once the enabling technology is in place in India, Vodafone spokesmen said.

It may not be long before mobile phone users in India are able to follow Test cricket on their handsets, just as UK users were able to watch the Ashes in the summer of 2005 after a tie-up with Sky television. Golf and football are also possible. The picture, though small, is said to be of a high quality.

Consumers who sign onto a Vodafone package will have access to its global roaming facilities, so that an Indian businessman visiting, say, the UK will be able to make calls at local rates.

“The user should have access to all the facilities he is used to when he is travelling,” a spokesman said.

The mood at Vodafone headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, was today reported to be upbeat. “Everyone is very happy,” the spokesman added.

The Vodafone group’s chief executive, Arun Sarin, who has put his neck on the line with the biggest single foreign investment in Indian history, was locked in a series of meetings today as some investors wondered whether he had paid too high a price.

“The shares are up,” the spokesman pointed out, in response to the criticism.

Shares of Vodafone rose 4.25 pence, or 2.9 percent, to 153.5 pence in London, the highest since September 2005.

“This is a very nice deal that gives Vodafone a controlling stake in very strong growth market,” Bloomberg agency was told by Wim Zwanenburg, who helps oversee $31 billion at Bank Degroof Group, including Vodafone shares. “It’s a very significant price, but I think they can earn it back.”

Sarin’s expensive foreign acquisition also received the support of his chairman, Sir John Bond, who said: “India is destined to become one of the largest and most important mobile markets in the world and this acquisition will enable our shareholders to benefit from our increased investment in this market.”

Vodafone believes its expansion in India will help take the country’s economic development into rural areas.

Vodafone UK has 15.8 million customers and is part of the world’s largest mobile community offering a wide range of voice and data communications. It predicts that it will have 20 per cent to 25 per cent market share in India by 2012.

The deal is expected to be completed by the second quarter of this year. “We don’t see any complications,” the spokesman said.

Indian consumers can start studying Vodafone brochures.

The company has a service for businesses to send and receive text messages from their personal computer.

“Once installed, the Vodafone Text Centre option is added onto the email in-box menu, making text messaging as simple as sending an email. Text messages can be sent to a single recipient or a broader distribution list and the sender is able to choose whether replies are sent back to their email inbox or to a mobile phone. Customers pay for messages they send on their monthly phone bill,” the company explained.

In addition to sending text messages to a distribution list, Vodafone Text Centre enables businesses to set up alerts to their phone for calendar appointments and incoming emails, reminding them of urgent issues wherever they are. Research shows text messaging is already one of the most effective ways for companies to communicate with employees, customers or suppliers – 94 per cent of texts are opened and read.

Mark Bond, the director of enterprise marketing at Vodafone UK, has said: “As the mobile and IT worlds converge, business people are increasingly aware of the efficiencies that can be achieved through the deployment of business applications on mobile devices. Our aim is to be the most respected authority in the UK with regards to the implementation of new mobile applications and in building the trust that is required for new adoption.”

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