COAI announces its leadership at the AGM for the year 2017-18 and pledges its support towards, “Delivering the Digital Future”…

NEW DELHI, JUNE 16, 2017: The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the apex industry association for India’s telecom sector, has re-elected Bharti Airtel Ltd Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal as its Chairman for 2017-18, while Vodafone India Ltd Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer Sunil Sood will continue as its Vice-Chairman.

COAI, which has members including six of the largest mobile service providers, ISPs as well as other leading mobile, Internet and technology companies, has also designated its Executive Council for the next term at its Annual General Body Meeting held on June 15.

Mr. Vittal, An alumnus of Madras Christian College and IIM Kolkata, he has over 25 years of experience in telecom and FMCG sectors including companies like Singapore-based Singtel and Hindustan Unilever.

Similarly , while Mr. Sood is also an industry veteran having had a long stints at Pepsico, in India and Bangladesh as well companies like Nestle and Safaricom. He has an MBA from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and a BE from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Commenting on the development, COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said: “The telecom industry, this year, witnessed several iconic initiatives and the industry leapfrogged, playing critical roles in the government’s major policy initiatives like the JAM trinity, and mission-mode programs like Digital India and Skill India. The telecom sector has been one of the primary drivers of India’s economic growth – contributing 6.5% to the national GDP. This has been an eventful year for the industry, with tariffs hitting rock bottom, Internet penetration going up to 30%, India’s data appetite growing with low cost of access  and spectrum harmonisation, trading and sharing being enabled the industry hopes to see a fully connected and digitally empowered India.”

“The big events this year have been the consolidation between fairly big players, a consequence of the industry reeling under severe financial stress. There is a need for the industry to spend as much as a thousand crores in the next few years towards both Capex and spectrum. This will be very difficult given the current state of affairs. Access is the key and the industry remains committed to connecting the unconnected and making India a fully connected and digitally empowered nation. ”

“I personally thank our Chairman and Vice-Chairman for their bold and courageous leadership during one of the most challenging periods in the history of India’s telecom sector and further express confidence in their ability to steer the association and the sector towards long term health and stability. Despite the roller-coaster year that we have had, we have been able to stand steadfast. It always amazes me at how they are able to make the time away from the market place for supporting the association. And I can assure that the Association will continue to support the sector and the industry on its way forward through whatever hardships that may come.”

The AGM was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Delivering the Digital Future’ which saw contributions from senior officials from the Government and the industry leaders including Dr. Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, MeitY, Dr. Anand Agarwal, CEO & Director, Sterlite Technologies, and Paolo Colella, MD & Region Head – India, Ericsson.

Speaking on behalf of the government, Dr. Ajay Kumar re-affirmed that the Digital India program has transformed India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. Its long term vision aims to connect every citizen, and provide access to government and other key information services on demand thereby enabling digital empowerment of every citizen.

He also announced the soon to be launched National Cyber Security Cell and various CERTs, emphasizing on a collective& collaborative approach for Cyber security, hailing – e- payments, mobile payments, IoT, Digital Payments, Digital Locker as the big thrust areas for the government and the industry .

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