| Actress Lara Dutta in Barcelona. Telegraph picture
London, Feb. 13: When billions pour into the telecom box office, an Oscar is in order.
The worldwide mobile phone industry’s “Oscar” has gone to India, two days after Vodafone won the race for Hutch after valuing the Indian company at $18.8 billion.
Sure enough, some Bollywood faces, including Lara Dutta, Dia Mirza and Sanjay Gupta, were in attendance at the ceremony in Barcelona as Dayanidhi Maran, the communications minister, went up on stage to receive the honour.
To everyone’s relief, the winner did not weep nor thank “my mother, my lawyer, God, Mahatma Gandhi, the schoolteacher in my old patshala, my bank manager, my office peon, etc. etc.” as he received what is a prestigious accolade.
Handed out by the GSM Association (GSMA), the global trade forum which represents more than 700 operators in 217 countries, the “government leadership award 2007” has been presented this year “to India for exceptional achievement in the field of mobile communications policy”.
Some big names from the mobile phone industry were present, too, to see Maran take the top prize, among them senior management figures from Vodafone, China Mobile, Telefonica of Spain, USA Singular Wireless, NTT of Japan and Bharti. Vodafone’s Arun Sarin had a meeting with Maran.
In his citation, Rob Conway, CEO and board member of the GSMA, which picked the winner, said: “The Government of India has transformed the landscape for mobile telecommunications in the country over the past three years. They’ve taken some tough decisions to ensure that the benefits of mobile communications, as well as the attendant social and economic advantages, can be shared amongst all of their citizens, and not just the urban elite.”
And he added: “Without a doubt, the digital divide in India is narrower today than ever and this is due in great part to the foresight and vision of the Indian government.”
There were CEOs and ministers from across the world who heard these words and applauded warmly yesterday.
Maran blushed with embarrassed pleasure because it is not everyday that the Indian government is credited with anything other than “rampant corruption”.
He said it was “an honour to accept this award” and went on: “India has put great effort into reforming its policies related to mobile communications and the private sector has responded positively to the policy and regulatory environment created by the government.”
He added: “However, we recognise that there is still great untapped potential for mobile communications to bring further economic and social benefits to my country and I assure you that the Indian government is fully committed to continuing to deliver a progressive policy and regulatory environment to all stakeholders.”
Mike Smith, spokesman for GSMA, expressed satisfaction at the Bollywood presence – “this whole Bollywood thing is so important”.
He said that the director Sanjay Gupta was launching a series of 10 short films, each between seven and eight minutes long, which could now be viewed on a mobile phone. “We just premiered the first one,” said Smith.
Trying to put a whole Bollywood movie on a mobile phone would strain its memory but, in any case, he did not think anyone would want to spend three hours plus glued to a tiny screen.
Probably not, unless India’s mobile phone industry can persuade Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapur to star in a longer “alleged” liplock saga.