Oversize #10: Airtel’s realization: diversify or die
Abhishek Baxi
05 October 2020

In 2013, India had about a dozen operators serving a little over 700 million subscribers. Bharti Airtel Ltd led with a quarter of the market share. In 2016 (before Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd started services), the number of operators had reduced to eight, while the active subscribers had crossed 900 million.

The Indian mobile telephony market is more consolidated now with three private operators—Airtel, Jio, and Vi (Vodafone Idea Ltd, which rebranded itself as Vi recently)—and one government operator, BSNL. We are talking a billion subscribers with Airtel and Jio controlling about a third of the market each. While Jio trampled on what could’ve been Airtel’s growth, it essentially gobbled up the erstwhile players.

This consolidation has also led to market repair.

A senior employee at Airtel told this writer that in 2016, the company realized that the days of pure mobile play were over. “If we continued to be a dumb pipe, we would’ve just died.” India

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