Bharti prepares to party in Sri Lanka

16 Aug 2007

India’s Bharti Airtel, which won Sri Lanka’s fifth mobile licence in January, yesterday announced that it is on schedule to launch GSM and W-CDMA services on the island by early 2008, and has set an investment budget of USD200 million for the next five years. ‘With mobile penetration of around 30% and growing at a rate of approximately two million mobile users per annum, we are excited about our entry into this market,’ Bharti Airtel’s president of mobile services, Sanjay Kapoor, said in a statement, adding that ‘a major portion of the committed investment will be made during the next 12-18 months.’ In May Bharti Airtel Lanka signed an agreement with Sri Lanka’s foreign investment promotion body, the Board of Investment (BoI), to invest at least USD150 million in the country. Bharti plans to roll out its network throughout the island, covering the main towns as well as rural areas, and is aiming for 65%-70% geographical coverage. The firm intends to focus on value added services such as mobile financial transactions, music downloads, gaming and shopping applications. Kapoor told a news conference: ‘Our focus will be on affordability, usage, innovation and easy availability… aiming for share of wallet rather than share of telecom [subscribers]…We do more music in India than some of the music companies…In India, Bollywood films are very popular. Now there are films being made for mobile devices. The whole entertainment business is changing,’ adding that the company considered the Sri Lankan market to be akin to India’s. Asked about pricing, Kapoor said Bharti’s strategy would not revolve solely around pricing but that they would ‘offer the best value to customers.’ Kapoor also acknowledged that the absence of mobile number portability in the country was a challenge to a new entrant.

Sri Lanka, Bharti Airtel, Bharti Airtel Lanka