Bharti Airtel Prefers IBM; Ignores Indian Tech Firms

While Indian tech service providers claim to be the leaders in the world, India’s major mobile services company Bharti Airtel has dismissed all such local claims and preferred to hire world leader IBM for its IT operations.

Airtel and IBM jointly announced Tuesday (July 12) a 10-year agreement to provide comprehensive IT solutions to its employees across 16 African countries. In terms of the agreement, IBM will provide a standard operating environment, ‘help desk’ and ‘desk side’ support to enhance employee efficiency and convenience.

The announcement builds on a strategic partnership signed in late 2010 to manage the computing technology and services to power Airtel’s mobile communications network spanning 16 African countries.

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IBM will provide end user services to Airtel employees across Africa, in French and English. The consolidation of Airtel’s helpdesks is expected to bring greater cost savings and efficiencies by streamlining the processes of addressing IT operational issues.

It will also include an enhanced information enterprise security solution that further strengthens Airtel’s commitment to customer data privacy.

This deal is supposed to be a case of reverse-outsourcing in which an Indian company has been giving IT services work to an American service provider while there’s a hue and cry in the U.S. against the local companies that hire Indian tech firms for their operations.

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Airtel and IBM’s relationship began in 2004 when the Indian mobile operator selected IBM to run IT and applications for its entire network in India.

At that time, an agreement between Bharti Tele-Ventures and IBM India was signed in which Bharti (Airtel) decided to engage IBM for its IT infrastructure and applications. The total deal, over a 10-year period, was estimated to be in the range of US$700-US$750 million.

Later in 2006, Bharti Airtel partnered with IBM to buy latter’s service delivery platform for a staggering $100 million.

Surprisingly, Airtel has sidelined Indian tech players like Infosys, TCS, HCL and others while favoring IBM. Even Airtel’s own enterprise tech solutions arm offers similar tech infrastructure management services to local user outfits.

IBM acknowledged Airtel’s infatuation for it and honored Sunil Mittal, founder and CEO of Bharti Enterprises, during IBM’s 100th anniversary celebrations last month.

“This agreement enables us to provide the best IT capabilities to our employees with a focus of making innovative mobile solutions available across Africa. IBM will introduce best practices based on their global experience in various sectors. This will help us to focus on delivering innovative products and services and providing a better customer experience,” said Manoj Kohli, CEO (International), Bharti Airtel.

Today, Airtel claims to have over 225 million customers. Also, it has over 44 million customers across 16 African operations and is targeting 100 million by 2015.

“This latest agreement will bring enhanced efficiencies to benefit customers, employees and business partners of Bharti Airtel,” said Bruno Di Leo, IBM general manager, Growth Markets.

Photo courtesy: IBM

RMN News

Rakesh Raman