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Mukesh, Mittal Make Rs 15,000 Crore Telecom Infra Pitch For Bengal

One of the 5th edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) witnessed two warring telecom giants — Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel — making strong investment proposals to battle it out in the West Bengal market.

As Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani announced the biggest investment proposal on the inaugural plenary session with a Rs 10,000 crore kitty, Rajan Bharti Mittal, the vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises, told TOI on the sidelines of the state’s showpiece business event that
Bharti Airtel is likely to shell out around Rs 5,000 crore to expand and upgrade its telecom infrastructure in the next one year. According to Mittal, the money that Airtel will pump in will be utilized in increasing capacity, setting up more data centers, more 4G and fiber links.

The first day of the summit saw investment proposals worth over Rs 48,000 crore.

‘Jio largest investor in digital space in Bengal’

In his speech, Ambani said: “In 2016, when I first attended the Bengal Global Business Summit, Reliance’s investments in the state were Rs 4500 crore. Today, our investments stand at Rs 28,000 crore in West Bengal alone. Now, we have firmed up our plan for a further investment of over Rs 10,000 crore. This plan is already under implementation.”

This accounts for about one-tenth of RIL’s total investments in India so far. “Jio has thus become the largest investor in the digital space in this state,” Ambani boasted. The upcoming investment will also include the company’s expenses to unveil its new e-commerce venture in the state.

According to Mittal, the money that Airtel will pump in will be utilized in increasing capacity, setting up more data centers, more 4G and fiber links. “Every year, we end up investing close to $3 billion in telecom arena in India,” he added.

The onset of Reliance Jio’s low pricing strategy has seen the other telecom players like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea bleeding profusely in the recent quarterly results. Bharti Airtel posted nearly 72% fall in net profit for the three months through December 31 at Rs 86.2 crore compared with a profit of Rs 306 crore in the year-ago quarter, while Vodafone Idea, India’s largest telecom firm by number of subscribers, reported a marginal increase in net loss of 5005 crores in the same quarter.

Bharti Airtel has already claimed to have covered 100% of the Bengal area network while Ambani said Reliance Jio is all set to cover the whole population of the state within the current year. Both the companies are also making inroads into fiber-to-home business in the state.

Jio which has close to 1 lakh active Business Partners across Bengal has set up “Jio Points” as a direct distribution channel in deep rural markets, to cater to the growing rural market and each and every village in West Bengal.

Earlier, as the second speaker of the main plenary session, Ambani had set the ball rolling by addressing the packed audience of the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre at New Town, “Joy Bangla! Joy Biswa Bangla! I am happy to be back in Kolkata, truly the City of Joy.”

In his speech, Mittal echoed Ambani’s comment on the visible transformation of the state’s economy and infrastructure. “I am coming to Kolkata after a long gap. And I could not imagine this is the same place as I had seen at my younger age.” After finishing his speech, Mittal hugged Ambani on his way back to his seat on the dais.

He explained: “Bengal’s GDP has crossed Rs 10 lakh crores. It was less than Rs 4 lakh crores at the beginning of this decade when you (chief minister Mamata Banerjee) took reins of this state in your able hands. The rate of growth of the state’s GDP is 9.1%, which is higher than the national figure.”

This state accounts for the highest rise in credit flow to MSME sector among all Indian states while agriculture is booming, and farmers’ incomes are rising here, the RIL chairman added. “West Bengal is poised to become the logistics hub of the east, with plans to attract investments of Rs 5000 crore by 2020, creating jobs for 50,000
people,” he added.

Both the company heads claimed to be providing direct and indirect employment to about 100,000 people in West Bengal.―Times Of India

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