Bharti Airtel announces African call centers

AP News
Posted: Oct 25, 2010 8:41 AM
Bharti Airtel announces African call centers

India's largest telecom company said it plans to bring call center jobs to Africa, months after it bought out a major mobile phone network on the continent, the global CEO of Bharti Airtel announced Monday.

CEO Manoj Kohli and other officials with the world's fifth largest telecommunications company declined to put dollar figures to their plans. The company said it will create call centers with partners including IBM Corp., Tech Mahindra and SPANCO, with initial contracts of five years. The move comes as Indian outsourcing firms began hiring sprees this year to take advantage of job losses stemming from the global economic downturn.

"We are confident that Africa will revolutionize" the outsourcing sector, Kohli told journalists. "Today is only a germination."

The contracting companies declined to say what specific services they would provide to Bharti, which has 183.4 million customers across 19 countries.

Bharti announced in June it would invest $600 million in Nigeria's mobile phone market, but the company faces a fight in its hopes to expand in the nation of 150 million people. South Africa-based MTN already holds a 50 percent market share in the country while other networks also vie for customers.

However, Nigeria's state-run telephone company's fixed-line network sits in ruins, awaiting a potential privatization deal. Estimates suggest nearly 63 million mobile phones are used in the country.

Bharti faces challenges in its Indian market, as a price war has driven costs down to less than 1 cent a minute. The company's most recent quarterly report saw profits fall 32 percent to $361 million.

Kohli declined to say whether he anticipated a similar price war coming to Africa, as his company tries to make a name for itself in countries like Nigeria _ where more than 80 percent of people earn less than $2 a day.

"We are here to create market," the CEO said.

Bharti's other holdings in Africa include networks in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.



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