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Vodafone Idea eyes MSMEs to drive enterprise biz

NEW DELHI : Vodafone Idea Ltd plans to offer its mobility and integrated internet of things (IoT) solutions, including cloud telephony and auto-receptionist, to nearly 250,000 micro, small and medium enterprises over the next year, a top company executive said. India’s third-largest telco is eyeing the advisory business to corner the opportunities in this under-tapped segment.

The company is also bullish on the captive 5G network business expected from enterprises, including SMEs and MSMEs, Arvind Nevatia, chief enterprise business officer, Vodafone Idea, said.

“We believe that as a telco, we have the best expertise to deploy private networks on 4G/5G in the future," Nevatia said in an interview, backing the case for telcos being better suited to offer captive 5G services, amid a growing debate between tech companies and telecom service providers where the former is seeking to set up captive networks on their own with airwaves allocated by the government without an auction.

Initial adoption is expected across large manufacturing, mining and ports enterprises, he said, adding that the adoption and investments driven by the industries can open up use cases and deployments in the future.

“We see business opportunity with mid-market and other enterprises that would need private networks delivered by telcos as a shared or dedicated capability across the country, delivered through multitude of spectrum options available, as well as 5G capability of slicing," Nevatia added.

Vodafone Idea recently created a use case for private 5G enterprise network in India in a tie-up with L&T Smart World & Communication at the group’s AM Naik Heavy Engineering Complex manufacturing facility in Surat, on a trial basis.

Vodafone Idea has been partnering enterprises across industries and sizes to deliver competitively on coverage, connectivity cloud and collaboration requirements and, therefore, feels that private networks are an extension of the same.

On diversification into advisory for mobility solutions for the MSME segment, Nevatia said the base of 63 million large MSMEs provides a sizeable market opportunity for the telco as companies in retail, healthcare, electric vehicles and others were interested in adopting technology solutions for business growth, improving efficiency and enhancing security.

“I see buoyancy in healthcare also with smaller clinics, private clinics, looking at digitized solutions and cloud telephony," he added. “We are seeing good growth and traction in this customer base—cloud telephony solutions, auto-receptionist elements, which I think are still at a low penetration and will grow with more and more MSMEs formalizing themselves."

According to Cisco SMB Digital Maturity Study 2020, digital adoption will enable SMEs to add $158-216 billion to India’s GDP by 2024, making the segment among the largest to spend on digitalizing operations in the years to come. Enterprise business has become a key revenue drive for the telecom sector, with about 40% of industry revenue coming from large to small companies, according to data from the Cellular Operators Association of India. Rival carriers Bharti Airtel is a large player in this segment, with partnerships with several companies, including Google.