British telecom giant Vodafone Group Plc is looking to invest Rs 13,000 crore (around $1.96 billion) in India for capacity expansion and new business initiatives, said the group’s chief executive officer Vittorio Colao during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in London.
Of the total, while Rs 8,000 crore (over $1.2 billion) will be used to enhance, upgrade and expand network coverage, Rs 3,000 crore (around $453.7 million) will be spent to increase capacity and upgrade its high-end technology centre and IT and customer experience centres in Pune and Ahmedabad. These centres support Vodafone companies globally.
Besides, it is looking to set up a high-tech tier-4 data centre with an investment of Rs 1000 crore (around $151.2 million), which it claims would be the first of its kind in the telecom sector.
It has also set aside Rs 1000 crore in the payment bank for which Vodafone M-Pesa Ltd has already received an in-principle licence from the Reserve Bank of India.
“The planned capacity expansions and investments in the high-end technology centre and the customer service centres will create opportunities for employment and for skilling and training India’s rich talent pool. Vodafone will increase its staffing levels to 15,000 employees over the next two years,” the company said in a statement.
Vodafone Group has invested over Rs 1.11 lakh crore in India since its first set its foot in India in 2007, making it the largest foreign direct investment in India. The group operates telecom services across different countries but counts India as its jewel in the crown.
“At Vodafone, we are enthused with the PM’s vision for ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’. Vodafone India serves over 188 million citizens, of which almost 100 million are from rural areas. As a co-creator of the telecom ecosystem, a catalyst of the telecom revolution in India and being committed for the long term, we are poised to partner the Government of India in fulfilling these important initiatives,” said Colao.
Vodafone Group has also started preparing for an initial public offering of its India unit, pushing ahead with a share sale it has been planning for a long time.
Given Vodafone India’s size, its IPO could be one of the biggest in the country in recent times. India’s biggest IPO in three years is the share sale by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, operator of IndiGo airline, which raised about Rs 3,000 crore.
In June this year, Vodafone India had raised about Rs 8,800 crore (around $1.37 billion) through placement of non-convertible debentures and simultaneous rights issue to ramp up operations and bring down its debt.
Vodafone’s India business has 188 million customers. India is its largest data traffic market by volume and the third-largest contributor to Vodafone Group’s service revenues.
The group directly and indirectly owned a combined 84.5 per cent of Vodafone India, the country’s second-largest telecom firm by users and revenue and last year bought out its other partners Max Group’s Analjit Singh and Piramal Enterprises to make it a wholly owned firm.
During April-February period of 2014-15 fiscal, Vodafone was the top MNC investor in India. Its investment of $1.5 billion in May 2014 was the biggest by any MNC, as per data available with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.