|GTL, global agility and innovation
Sharat Chandra, President and Chief Operating Officer of GTL International Limited
talks to Intercomms about the company's global plans
Mr. Sharat Chandra, former Director Operations,
India, Motorola, has joined as the President & Chief
Operating Officer, of GTL International Limited. The
company is an international subsidiary of GTL Limited
and will manage the international acquisitions and
integration of the group companies. The company
has also the vision of being at the forefront of Systems
Integration in the 2G/3G Cellular and 4G technology
Q: What is GTL all about?
A: GTL Limited, part of the Global Group, is India's
largest network services provider to the world.
Global Group is India's leading business
group focused on Network Services and Shared
Telecom Infrastructure. With FY 08E Revenues of
USD 600 million, Balance Sheet size of USD 1.5
Billion and over 12,675 employees, the Group has
six operating companies, presence in over 35
countries and supports 18 social causes.
For over two decades the Group has been
partnering with leading Telecom OEMs and
Operators, to offer its solutions in the wireless
communications space. From 2G networks to 3G
and 4G, from, WiMAX to IPTV, Global Group
provides complete life cycle solutions of network
services and telecom Infrastructure.
By 2010 the group plans to engineer and
manage over 100,000 cell sites across 150
networks. These networks will connect more than
100 million subscribers in 50 countries across
In a snapshot (FY08E)
Growth - A Business Imperative
In a rapidly changing marketplace, fast
technological transitions, fixed-mobileconvergence;
Global group retains a position of
eminence driven by its vision to become the
Largest Network Services Provider, Globally.
Within our Global Group we have two listed
companies. GTL Limited, that offers Network
services and works closely with the equipment
manufacturers and operators. We are technology
agnostic; we work on GSM, CDMA, 2G, 3G and
now WiMAX in order to service subscribers.
Our other company GTL Infrastructure Ltd. is
a pioneer in the Shared User Telecom
Infrastructure (Telecom Towers) in India. The
company plans to invest close to $1.8 billion, to
set up 25,000 towers to enable cost effective
infrastructure sharing between multiple operators.
Since our strengths lie in network design,
engineering, program management, deployment,
operations and maintenance we are capable of
managing both the passive as well as active
infrastructure. This brings forth an un-matched cost arbitrage across the industry.
Services aligned with Life cycle for OEMs & Carriers
Q: What is your strategy for growth?
A: Global Group has adopted two methods for
growth: organic and inorganic. The organic
method is in markets where deployment is
significant e.g in India, our Network deployment
vertical has grown much taller than the others
because of the sheer magnitude and size of
business and the expansion requirements of our
customers. We are witnessing organic growth in
SE Asian markets where we have business in
optimisation, network planning and operations
and maintenance. We are extending and growing
our teams for sales and execution capability to
strengthen these verticals.
Inorganic growth enabled synergistic and
rapid growth in new markets, customer accounts
and business verticals. We have acquired 3
companies in the recent past namely, UK based
Genesis Consultancy that has expertise in 3G,
Malaysia based ADA Cellworks that specialises in
Network Planning, Design and Optimization and
USA based SCS Consultancy that specialises in
Site Acquisition and Network Rollout.
Each of these organisations have helped us
attain new skills, access to different markets,
engage with new customers and gain knowledge.
For instance, ADA Cellworks is a RF company
specialising in network planning, design and
optimisation. It brought with itself 750+
professionals that are helping us grow in
customer domains and territories where we were
not present initially.
- Radio & Tx Planning - GSM, GPRS, EDGE, CDMA, UMTS, WiMAX
- RF Optimization, Benchmarking, Network Audit, RFI
- In-building Design and Project Management
- Planning & Operations Support for MSC, OSS, CS / PS Core
Expanding Focus on
- VPO (Virtual Planning & Optimization - remote support)
- Planning, Design and Deployment of WiMAX
On the other side, GTL has a strong market
presence in the Middle East for the last ten years.
With the capability now available through ADA
Cellworks we can use this unique value
proposition into the Middle East market. It is a
bilateral play of strengths.
Q: What are the major challenges facing GTL and
how are you addressing them?
A: The first challenge is managing growth. If you
look at India, it is a deployment intensive market,
so the needs and challenges presented by this
market is the sheer magnitude of work that needs
to be done. For an organisation such as ours it is
important to maintain a steady inbound stream of
good talent so that we are able to manage this
growth and are able to sustain and provide a
career value proposition to the engineers who
come on board. India does churn out close to 5
million engineers every year and large numbers of
those come from established institutes.
The appetite for imparting training by small
to mid sized companies is limited and therefore,
we as the leaders are focussing a lot on ensuring
that the engineers who join us are trained and are
made role-specific and responsibility specific. We
depend on their inclination and initial desires in
terms of the specific skill they want to build upon
and provide that training. That is the challenge.
The other challenge in mature markets like
Europe is in providing, managing and maintaining
a healthy optimised network where legacy
platforms will give way to new platforms. Growth
in subscriber needs are then translated into new
applications and solutions that work on legacy
platforms or newer ones. Here the talent pool is
more sophisticated and fulfilment of customer
expectations is driven by tools, skill set, processes
and quality orientation in the entire service
delivery frame work. The second challenge in
mature markets is that of establishing yourself.
We have been present in the UK market for over
seven years now but in other Western European
markets, we are yet to established ourselves and
that takes time. There is therefore, an opportunity
to evaluate inorganic means to present a credible
presence in these markets.
Q: What are you doing within the area of WiMAX?
A: An area that I have driven with missionary zeal
when I came on board from Motorola. I found that
everything was already there in this organisation:
good systems, trained manpower, markets and
customers. It was important to establish a world
class capability centre for the newly introduced
platforms and that is when the WiMAX Centre of
Excellence was set up. This was not born in India,
for India but in India for the world and has a
sprinkle of people from all the four continents.
We can engage and support when an operator
files an application to win a licence for WiMAX
systems. Further, we can engage with potential
bidders and help them draw-up a business plan.
Since we are a technology and vendor agnostic
company, when it comes to making a judgement
call on either the technology or solution for an
operator; a business plan crafted by us is neutral
and offers an unbiased and optimised set of
solutions to the customers, both in terms of
platforms and choice of vendors through which
those platforms could be integrated. We can also
play a role of a comprehensive systems integrator.
The second vertical is on programme
management and execution of the plan. The third
is managed network operations of WiMAX. We are
not going to just leave it as one more deployed
network in the hand of an operator. This is brand
new technology with its standards still evolving.
While the manufacturers are inching toward
certification, we are getting ready. In a situation
like that, it is important that such networks are
managed from start to finish through skilled and
trained manpower and use of proven O&M
techniques that are critical for successful and
healthy management of these networks. A very
important vertical of the WiMax CoE is the
Academy and a Laboratory. We are a WiMAX Forum
member and are working very closely with a world
leader in WiMax technology to help establish the
academy with sophisticated course content and
certification program. Alongside the Academy, we
would set up a Lab, where we will host platforms
from multiple WiMAX manufacturers, and through
that we will offer hands-on training. With those
platforms as an integral part of the offering will
also enable regulators and vendors to conduct
As multi-vendor multi equipment platforms
become available through this test lab, it would
offer an environment for an application developer
to test out his solution before he goes live to an
WiMAX Centre of Excellence
Q: What's different about GTL?
A: We are one of the few organizations that are in
the business of Network services, globally. We
have gained recognition by large companies like
Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia-Siemens as
Partners in their associated project delivery
requirements. Partnership doesn't necessarily
mean establishing a joint venture; partnership
means a spirit of cohabitation in ensuring that
ultimately the customer is successful in meeting
their business goals through our effective service
delivery. GTL has been given the respectability
and credibility by world class equipment
manufacturers. While being a world class
organisation, we remain conscious of the fact that
we will have to deliver more with less and do the
work first time right. So being cost competitive is
important to us. While there is a continuous
demand our mandate is to maintain quality and
we have done that. High quality of deliverance
wouldn't have happened with just a few bright
people, there had to be good processes, adaptive
and flexible to the needs of the market. That is
the unique combination that we want to share
with the world. That is what GTL is all about.
Q: Could you give us a brief career profile? What
are you currently focusing on?
A: I have a unique blend of Sales, Engineering,
Strategic planning, Business Development and
Operations experience spanning 26 years. Started
my career with Philips India in 1981 and then
moved on to Ballarpur Industries in 1989 to
strengthen Diversification and Corporate Business
Development. In 1993 I moved to Motorola.
Currently I am engaged in creating a common
thread of business strategy tying in all the
business units of Global Group and leveraging the
commonality of market presence and business
play. Aside from this, there will be need to
establish niche strategic initiatives for each
business unit. We are in advanced stages of
discussions with leading OEMs for strategic
engagements in enhancing and strengthening the
portfolio of services including but not limited to
Network Planning and Optimization. The key
outcome of these strategies is to build world
class capabilities as Systems Integrator of choice,
leveraging on technical skills, program
management processes and strong financial base.
Q: Which have been your most memorable
assignment in the past and why?
A: My most memorable assignment has been with
Motorola. It is a great organization with strong
people values and business ethics. Flexibility and
empowerment thrive within the organization and a
strong sense of pride for innovation is all pervasive.
I have learnt a lot, delivered a fair bit but most
importantly…enjoyed every moment of it.
Q: What do you see as your main strengths and
weaknesses? How would you describe your
A: I am able to empathize with customer issues
and anticipate problems early on. I have a strong
and flexible personality and am able to work,
relate, inspire and lead within a complex matrix
I am a stickler for detail and impatient with
I truly believe that excellence is delivered
through teamwork and therefore, support and
pursue participative style of management. What
can be achieved through a buy-in can never be
delivered through mandates. In the telecom
services space where the Global group has a preeminent
position globally, this style of
management has been active and intensely
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