You have spent almost two months in India now. What are your first impressions of the market?
India is a huge market. Each telecom business is based on the size of population. In this case, India has absolutely huge opportunities for telecom operators.
Do you get a sense that things are improving in India’s telecom sector?
We’re positive to see that something is happening... Earlier, it was like a dark zone. Now, it seems that both DoT and regulator Trai are trying to do something to make telecom market more attractive, specially for investments, to make life more easier and predictable.
If you wish to invest, first of all, you need clarity. After that, you make a business plan and execute it. Unfortunately, we were not happy, in terms of rules and conditions in the market; but now, we feel that the Indian market is particularly waiting for M&A (mergers and acquisitions).
India is a wealth picture. But every player has been waiting for rules and conditions. Once things become clear on that front, we will decide what to do; we are open for discussions regarding M&A. This market needs consolidation. But much depends on the regulatory environment.
When other foreign players exited India in 2011 citing unfavourable business environment, Sistema stayed put. Why?
Our stakeholders have a strategic vision for India because India is one of the best markets for telecom business. Our stakeholders decided to continue waiting for positive regulatory changes. We are waiting for a positive story in India.
You have headed Sistema in the Russian, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan telecom markets. How is India different, in terms of regulatory environment?
Russia is not big like India, but the regulatory environment there is much easier. The Russian telecom market is more structured. I don’t know what to say about Turkmenistan.
What are your strategies for growth?
First of all, we are trying to break even. Our style of management can manage, in order to reach targets, reboot our tasks.
Sistema has spectrum in nine circles. Auctions are expected soon. How optimistic are you about the auctions?
We are very optimistic. However, we will be in a position to comment further only after we see the rules in place. Right now, we feel the Indian market is ripe for M&A stories.