Norwegian telecom giant Telenor has rolled out its services in five circles and plans a pan-India footprint soon. On a recent visit, Harald Norvik, Chairman of the Board, spoke to BT's Kushan Mitra on why India is a vital market.
"We knew that India is an extremely competitive market in most industries, but it's particularly so in telecom. Therefore, if you are risk averse, you probably should not look at India. We believe we have a business model that has elements that can also be attractive in India.
Our products and our customer focus could be our competitive advantage here. We decided to come into India with a partner (Unitech) that had a licence at the time. It was a difficult decision. In India, you know you will have long-term negative cash-flow.
But I must admit that the little that I have seen I am highly impressed with the amount that we have done, reached out to thousands of sales points and to millions of people. Coming from a country of five million, India is just immense, but I have confidence in my team here.
India should know that we have an owner—the Norwegian state—that is stable. And it gives us, as a company, the ability to be long term. In 2000, the decision to semi-privatise Telenor was taken. In Norway, you have a tradition of the state being heavily involved in companies, but there is also a tradition of partnership with private companies.
We are, in my view, a very competitive company that you can compare with the best in the world. But it is important to realise that there is an arms length distance between the company and the government."