The return of pricing power to India’s stressed telecom industrywill depend on Reliance JioInfocomm, which will need to make the first move, Sunil Mittal, chairman, Bharti Enterprises, tells ET Now in Davos. Edited excerpts:
How do you assess this government’s performance? What will the key issues be in the 2019 election?
Unfortunately, the election discourse has become ugly. The shrillness, noise, language — it is getting a bit uncomfortable for people at large. But at election times, these things are expected. I hope once the election is done, things will settle down. I think the current government is reformist in its very nature. Ease of doing business issues have been sorted out. Could they have done more? I think we can always expect any government to do more.
How bad is telcos’ financial situation?
The condition of the telecom industry has been appalling and that is one of the reason why eight companies have gone out of business. $45-50 billion has been written off. Large corporations such as the Tatas, Telenor, Aircel and Reliance Communications have finally had to pack up and only three companies remain. The second- and third-largest operators, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, had to merge just to survive. For us to say everything is hunky dory, will be wrong. Spectrum auctions went horribly wrong and were too expensive. Looking back, that money should have gone more into networks and creating a digital ecosystem rather than into the fiscal deficit filling of the government.
You are saying it is an industry-wide financial issue…