By Sandeep Joshi (JULY 11, 2019)

Sandeep Aggarwal, Managing Director and Promoter of Paramount Cables, holds top positions at various technical and industrial bodies. He is the Chairman of PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s  Telecom Segment, Vice Chairman in Telecom Equipment and Promotion Council (TEPC). Aggarwal is also the Chairman of TEMA & CMAI – National Telecom Development Advisory Group. He shares an insight on the fiber network in India in an exclusive interview with ICTFlash

Tell us something about your company and your vision?

Paramount Communications is one of India’s leading wire & cable manufacturing company headquartered in New Delhi. With more than 60 years of experience in the sector, we have built an impressive portfolio. Our clients include various government institutions and private sector organisations. We also deal in Power, Telecom, Railways, Information Technology and Defence. Paramount is one of the most trusted brands in Indian cable manufacturing industry. Our vision is to provide efficient methods to our clients so that they can serve their customers at their best.

For instance, in my discussion with Reliance Jio, Vodafone-Idea, Airtel or BSNL, I have been telling them people to synergize their energies and combine their optical fiber assets to serve the customers better. A total of 18 lakh kilometers of fiber has been laid in India out of which four lakh kilometers has been laid by Jio; eight lakh kilometers by BSNL and three lakh kilometers each by Vodafone and Airtel.

If this merger happens, fiber deploying would become easy for the operators as where one operator has laid the fiber, the other operator need not to lay the cable in that area.

India’s total fiber requirement is 2,700 million kilometres but only 1.8 million kilometers has been laid down so far. The remaining could become easy if everyone combines their resources. They will have higher revenues and they will invest more, and moreover they would have more money to buy more efficient resources. We are also advising them to sell all their assets to leading companies like Brookfield, Qatari fund so that it can be available for everyone to use.

How has the company grown over the years?

We had started a small scale cable manufacturing unit in 1955 and in the year 1978, we started supplying telecom cables to the Department of Telecom. At that time, there were very few private companies dealing in manufacturing of wires and cables. We also supplied DoT with jumper wire, flat to home cables, switchboard cables. In early 1980s, we supplied E10B exchanges, which were electronic exchanges and required very high quality cables and at that time, no one was manufacturing it in India. We also manufacture 100 types of cables and got the contract for producing electrified cables for Railways.

In 1995, we floated our first IPO and got listed in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi stock exchanges. Paramount is now listed on both Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange. We are the only company in India that reduced 90% losses of Delhi Discom. We came out in a small scale and continued to grow.

What are your future investment plans in India and abroad? Is there any possibility of tie-ups with other companies?

We cannot share such information in interviews. We have to share it with SEBI. In 2007, we bought one of the oldest companies in the world based in London. The company deals in Submarine cables.

How has the cable-manufacturing ecosystem developed in India?

After independence, very few cable manufacturing companies were present in India. Either they were very big firms like Cable Corporation of India or there were very small ones. Cable manufacturing ecosystem started developing in India in 1977. When we started making telecom cables, only Government of India started exploring the option of buying cables from private companies.

Previously, the government was importing telecom cables and from 1977, they decided that the requirement of telecom cables cannot be supplied sufficiently by their factory in Roop Narayanpur and imports were at very high cost from France. It then started dealing with private companies and all imports were stopped within two years and local companies were not able to cater to the needs of the government.

What are Paramount’s key focus areas?

We mainly focused on cables and to that extent it is required we go into the engineering and construction of cables. We also focused on aerial bunched cables of medium or low voltage. The quality of installation of aerial cables, which are used for electricity purpose is very bad in India and there are specific ways of doing and if not done properly cables get damaged. If any customer feels he cannot do it properly, we take up that work. We also specialize in laying Optical ground wires in difficult terrains like higher reaches of Himalayas. Optical fiber constitutes 20% of our total business.

What are positive and negative impacts of outgoing government? 

Any change in government always results in shutdown of government for a minimum of six months to maximum an year. All decisions of previous government would be reviewed or either they would be scrapped or modified by the new government. They would be reviewed in the first 6 to 8 months or in the next 6-8 months, these projects would be modified or if new policy comes in they would take another 8 months for new policy formulation. Three years have gone and the government gets only 2.5 years to work. In this government, we are working at reasonably good speed.

What are your expectations from the government?

I expect the elected government of the day to implement my recommendations. I had recommended to the Telecom Secretary to declare broadband a utility – Right to Broadband under the Digital India Program – Vision 2025.

The government of India should tie-up with all state governments and through them with all the municipal corporations to ensure phased implementation of Fiber to Home and provide Broadband connection to all. Wherever possible in all existing and new houses, the broadband connections would be and should be provided wherever feasible by the concerned authority and demanded by the household.

The government should direct state governments to further direct the municipalities to ask the builder to apply for and get a broadband connection similar to requirements of water, electricity for the construction of new houses. The infrastructure would have to be provided by the Municipalities and they would levy carriage charges from the operator.

Another recommendation is that all Aadhaar linked mobile phones should be provided 500 MB data per month. This could be done through regulations wherein Telecom Regulatory Authority of India should ask all operators to include it in their base plan or 500 MB per month plan or DoT may compensate the operators for providing free 500 MB data per month by reduction in Universal Service Obligation Fund percentage.

Last but not the least, all new roads should have a utility corridor by law which would include pipes for OF cable, power, water, gas etc. and progressively all existing roads to have utility corridors by Law.

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