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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Telecommunications In India


I had my first set of my daily jam packed meeting schedule in Delhi this past week.  I was again very impressed with the reception I was given and the quality and nature of the individuals I met with and the serious subject matter of the discussions. 

Bharti Airtel
I with the Bharti Airtel Execs, Meenakshi VajPai and Felix Mohan,
 in their wonderful and very modern Lobby.
On Tuesday, Nov 1st, I had my first meeting with the Bharti Airtel company.  In India, Bharti Airtel is THE largest mobile service provider and builder of mobile infrastructure.  They are only about 10 years old since the company began providing mobile services and are no currently a global provider in all of India, large parts of Africa, and in Latin America.  Their main headquarters are located in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, and their offices are out of this world.   Was blown away. 
I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Meenakshi Vajpai, chief architect of Airtel Center and Mr. Felix Mohan, Sr. Vice President and Global Chief Information Security Officer.  We initially discussed the Eisenhower Program, my program objectives, why I chose to come to India, and what I would like to achieve during my overall meetings in the Country.  They were excited to hear about this and engaged my interest well.  Meenakshi, is the first woman I have met with since I arrived in India, is very impressive.  She launched into the story and background of the company, how they expanded in such a short time, where they are now in regards to infrastructure build of the mobile network and where they are going for future services.  In her position, she reports right to the CEO of the company and is one of the Executives who directly decides on the network architecture of Airtel.  I loved meeting with her because, 1) I rarely see women in the telecom space or in positions of power at such a high level…..and that is in India or the United States, 2) Her elegance and poise was wonderful to experience as a young women myself in the telecom space.  She had had such command of her field and it was great to see that women are making important decisions as they relate to technology.
Both of these individuals helped to frame what was going on in the telecom space in this interesting Country.  It was a very good start to the beginning of many meetings in that week.  

Parliamentary Research Services
Standing in Front of Parliament
in Delhi, India. 
Later that same day, I met with Parliamentary Research Services “PRS”.  PRS provides research analysis and recommends policy to members of Parliament in India.  I was supposed to meet with the Executive Director, V Madhukar, who is also an Eisenhower Fellow. However, Mr. Madhukar had to attend to some members of Parliament and I ended up meeting with Chakshu Roy who is the chief research policy analyst under Mr. Madhukar.  Chakshu is a young, very smart, technocrat who knows an immense amount of information as it pertains to telecom and technology, not only in India but globally. It was a JOY to talk with him. This was the first conversation that I had that really helped to understand all of the components of the beginnings of telecom in India, the strengths and weaknesses of the various  companies and networks, the technology eco systems across the world, and how India plays its part in this world wide evolution and revolution within technology.  Loved this meeting.  I didn’t expect to get as much out of it since Mr. Madhukar was unable to meet, but Chakshu explained everything in a manner that was cut and dry, precise, intelligent, and very engaging.  I am thankful to him for offering of his time, suggestions, and knowledge.  That was one conversation I will never forget and will call upon when I return back to the States often. 

Ministry of Telecommunications
My last meeting that day, was with Mr. Ajay Bhattacharya.  He is the administrator of the USO Fund, which is the Universal Service Fund ( comparable to our US Universal Service Fund mandated through the Federal Communications Commission), that provides the infrastructure for rural and some parts of urban India throughout the Country.  What the USO fund does is implement network services through a national fund, acquired through taxes and by private telecom companies who are mandated to contribute a percentage of their revenue to the govt, all over India.  The US also does this, but unfortunately our large private telecom companies are not mandated to contribute. Through this process many parts of India become connected by wired telecom services. 

It was good to have this conversation to see how the Indian Government does in fact issue services to its communities and also to see what type of various initiatives are being done to address access limitations for low income underserved residents of India.  I am finding that of course, Governments work differently throughout the world. But in India, it is not a matter that there is a lack of money to implement access, it is more of what and how to distribute the money that causes issues.  Something I would like to share with the FCC upon my return to the States is a comparative of how other Countries implement policy and funding of technology.  There are many aspects that we can learn from and employ that would help strengthen our own national priorities.

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