COMPETITION AHEAD: VSNL AT CROSS ROADS
The telecom sector had been functioning as a typical government department right from its inception. With the Department of Telephones (DoT) being under the exclusive control of the Ministry of Communications, Government of India (GO!), the system functioned more as a monopoly., With the advent of the LPG process (liberalization, privatization and globalization) in the early nineties, the telecom department went through a phase of modernization. A number of new and sophisticated electronic exchanges were installed which enhanced the capacity and lead to the disappearance of waiting list for telephone connections. In a landmark decision in 1995-96, the Government of India threw open its gates for private players in the area of cellular services. LCG and ACG were the two major players to enter this area in Karnataka region, while DoT decided to remain as an observer and continued as a provider of basic services only. Subsequently the Internet, ISD and other services were also opened to private participation.
The year 1998 saw the entry of Vikas Telenet (VTNL) as a basic service provider in the state of Karnataka. It launched its basic services in Bangalore district, the commercial capital of the state, in January 1998. The impact of this entry was felt by DoT as it resulted in a mass customer churning, challenging the market leadership of DoT in basic services. This growing challenge from VTNL made General Manager DoT Indore, R.L. Rawat realized the need for a comprehensive review of the competitive scenario. The situation faced by the Bangalore district was one of its kind. It was the only city where four companies were providing telephone services. LCG and ACG were providing cellular services while VTNL and DoT were providing basic services. To attract the customers all the providers had attractive tariff plans. DoT's market share was not affected by the entry of LCG and ACG as - they operated only as cellular...
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