Supported by a mass media saturation advertising blitz, UK-based mobile giant Vodafone Group will begin using its own name in India from Friday, following its USD11.1 billion acquisition of India’s third largest mobile operator, Hutchison Essar. The exercise, thought to be one of the world’s biggest-ever rebranding campaigns, is designed to touch over 35 million subscribers and 400,000 shops, and is seen as vital to the British firm’s earnings growth as it struggles to contend with market saturation in its core markets. Vodafone is looking to make its Indian unit the number one mobile provider in the country by 2010, currently one of the world’s fastest-growing cellular markets with more than six million net additions per month.
To back up the drive, Vodafone intends to continue work on a major expansion programme designed to increase its network footprint, particularly in the largely underserved rural regions where close to 70% of the population lives. A spokesman for Vodafone, which is ploughing USD2 billion into India over the next few years, said: ‘We used to be rolling out 900 cellular towers a month (across the country), now it is 1,800 to 1,900. We used to be adding around a million customers a month, now we’re adding around 1.7 million a month.’ Vodafone has also announced plans to enter into a network sharing plan with Bharti Airtel, India’s leading mobile phone company by subscribers, to cut network expansion costs and says it is open to deals with other companies.