Indian Mobile Market Surging
By John Alderman, Fri Apr 09 00:00:00 GMT 2004

Indian mobile phone operations are in a frenzied pattern of expansion, as the BBC reported that subscribers grew last year by 160 percent, with every month seeing a new 1.5 million customers, and mobile lines pushing to top landlines in that country within a year. As the world’s second most populous country, with a huge market for mobile, the global impact yet to be seen, but is clearly on its way.

The domestic impact is already interesting, as in the case of the real estate agent who has given up his office to work happily from his mobile phone. His earnings are up, because he’s always in touch with clients, and he doesn’t have to pay rent.

With about 12 telecom companies battling for control of this expanding market, there is a Wild West feeling, with some companies hoping to move from regional to national dominance. One focus this week seemed to be on the east, with Bharti Televentures spending $92 million to expand its GSM networks in Eastern India, including Calcutta, according to Reuters.

India's 3 million square kilometers, is split into 23 “circles” or regions of coverage. Bharti’s AirTel is currently operating in 15 circles. But to take the full 23, calls for a plan to add services in 200 towns covering 240 million people. Bharti exec Manoj Kohli was quoted in India’s Statesman as saying, “AirTel has become the first GSM operator which is set to operate its services in all the 23 telecom circles.” An aggressive plan.

Korean manufacturer LG believes that Indian business style isn’t aggressive enough, so it’s teaching its employees some discipline. In “How South Korea Conquered India,” Fortune documents the LG business culture as it convinces young Indian workers to greet the day with slogan shouting and motivational activities. While as concerned with home appliances as mobile phones, the story describes how the Korean manufacturing giant decided that the way to win the market was to make sales forces much more aggressive—and couple that with sweaty physical exercise designed to breakdown bad frames of mind. Though critics say it can’t be sustained, it has evidently worked so far, as LG’s market share in a range of products—phones, air conditioners, mobile phones—has dramatically increased.

Nokia is also on the move in India, and today announced a $24 million order from Indian telecom IDEA cellular, for a GSM/GPRS network.