‘Mobility is the Way Forward’ : Shekhar Agrawal

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Shekhar Agrawal, Senior Vice President, Vodafone India Ltd

The country is moving towards m-Governance to enable better functioning of the government and to make public services more inclusive and accessible to the citizens. India’s leading telecom player Vodafone aims to be the enabler in realising the Digital India dream through mobilisation of C2G and G2C communications, asserts Shekhar Agrawal, Senior Vice President & Head-Government at Vodafone Business Services, in an interview with Nirmal Anshu Ranjan of ENN

Can you brief us about your new assignment at Vodafone?
Vodafone Business service (VBS), the enterprise arm of Vodafone India Ltd., was set up in 2007 targeting large MNC customers. Over the last few years, VBS has grown considerably in terms of product, processes and people capabilities, as well as the depth and breadth of customer segments and geographies we serve. We have mature account management processes addressing MNCs and large corporates, small and medium enterprise as well as the public sector and Government.

I am responsible for the Government business. The Government Sales vertical has been growing at a healthy pace. We have been able to leverage our Mobility expertise as well as Wireline connectivity across the country to deliver solutions for Government customers. We have been active in Education, Health and Agriculture space as well.

What is your observation of the government’s ‘Digital India’ programme?
The earlier model of governance was based on G2C (Government to Citizen) model, but now the government is working towards the C2G (Citizen to Government) model, which is a step in the right direction. eGovernance is transitioning into mGovernance leveraging the omnipresence of mobile devices. As with businesses, the interactions between Government and Citizens are becoming a real-time two-way street.

As a global leader in Mobility and having worked with Governments in many parts of the world, Vodafone understands the e-Governance and m-Governance space deeply and is adequately poised to enable the ‘Digital India’ vision. We are looking forward to playing a larger role in supporting state and central governments through smart solutions and smart governance. We can help leverage the power of the mobility platforms and can lead the transformation from e-Governance to m-Governance. Be it Internet of Things, mobile-based payments, location-based services or managed mobility – Vodafone can support it.

Globally, we have multiple use cases where we have supported government projects in terms of reducing costs and improving efficiencies. Back home in India, mGovernance-based citizen-impacting solutions aren’t new to Vodafone and we have been active in the Education, Health and Agriculture space. We have a dedicated account management and service team in place for over a year now that caters to the central and state government’s ICT needs.

“Definitive strides are being taken by the government towards creating a better and more technologicallyadvanced India with the citizen in mind. Digital India will be a catalyst for this transformation and we are extremely excited with the positivity that surrounds us today.”

Vodafone being a telecom major, what challenges and opportunities you see for yourself in the Digital India initiative?
Definitive strides are being taken by the government towards creating a better and more technologically advanced India with the citizen in mind. Digital India will be a catalyst for this transformation and we are extremely excited with the positivity that surrounds us today. There is an opportunity in front of us to make a difference to millions of lives. Vodafone has worked with government entities in overseas markets to deliver connectivity and solutions towards several such initiatives. These global solutions address areas as diverse as urban traffic management through network-enabled analytics, using smart devices to help increase police force productivity and smart metering for utility companies.

Vodafone will significantly expand the government’s capacity to produce benefits and deliver outcomes for citizens, governments and businesses, and endeavours to be a steadfast partner in the government’s efforts.

There is also a lot of conversation currently on creating Smart Cities. How does Vodafone connect with this concept?
Amongst other things, Smart Cities will leverage IT and Telecommunication infrastructure. A key element of the ecosystem would be ‘connected homes and workplace’ based on the Internet of Things. Vodafone is a market leader in M2M technology and we are constantly working towards meeting the newer and advanced M2M needs of our customers.

There will also be high bandwidth MPLS connectivity required to network enterprises as well as solutions around enterprise mobility, unified communications, cloud-based services and hosting services. VBS is actively engaged to bring our global best practices around these products and services to India.

Initially, every initiative faces the challenge of adaptability. Do you feel comfortable dealing with the government ecosystem with regard to Digital India plan?
Being a global player we have experience of working successfully in different countries and having brought these same world-class practices to India makes it easier for us to adapt here.

Any recent government project that you have been associated with?
Vodafone’s robust, cost-effective, round-the-clock, intelligent services have enabled applications and m-Governance solutions such as:
• Connected classrooms: Enhanced learning experience for over 50K students across 800+ low income schools in 11 states;
• Improving livelihood of women entrepreneurs: Mobile ERP App for 1500 rural women entrepreneurs to automate their Supply Chain Management;
• Partnering with the state to reduce infant mortality: Facilitating communication through Alerts and Voice Calls for health activists as a part of a State Govternment’s health initiative;
• Ensuring cleaner water supply: Help municipal corporations track and monitor water quality; and
• Partnering government in civic Initiatives: Helping municipal corporation officials upload pictures and location of potholes; M2M-based intelligent street light and smart electricity meters.1

Also Read: World-class GIFT to the Nation

Can you elaborate a little on Vodafone’s Account Management initiative?
We have a team of account managers dedicated to serve the needs of our customers. They are constantly engaged with our customers to understand their business requirements and accordingly tailor solutions for their needs, in view of our customers’ existing business processes and other operational challenges.

What are the Vodafone’s future plans for India?
Today, we are leaders in Enterprise Mobility, ahead of competition by a fair distance. We would like to continue this dominance. We also plan to grow our fixed line business, which has seen traction in the recent years. Our business roadmap is also driven by innovative offerings that we are planning – we will continue to lead the market innovation in M2M, in which we are recognised as the No.1 communication service provider in the world. The upcoming launch of Cloud Marketplace would further enable us to become a total telecommunications provider.

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