Telcos Breathed O2 Into People’s Lives During Pandemic


A group of children in a village named Parapetta in Kerala were cut off from the education system due to lack of telecom connectivity. Hearing this, a Vi team installed a tower, enabling 150 students gain access to online education. If a single tower can bring such hope and possibilities, the overall impact of telecom connectivity across the country remains unquantifiable, writes RAVINDER TAKKAR.

Ever since the first lockdown 15 months ago, telecom operators have had our task cut. Enabling WFH, online school, delivery of healthcare services, ecommerce, banking and entertainment – telecom connectivity has constantly breathed oxygen into people’s lives, and digitised India as never before.

Enabling Business Continuity

I vividly recall our management discussions to manage huge traffic growth we started witnessing – up by 30 per cent – within the first week of the lockdown. For telcos in India, that was an entire year’s worth of traffic growth! Neither our fixed nor mobile networks were designed for this unprecedented increase. Almost overnight we expanded capacities to meet the demand, which had now started coming from residential areas. We created a three-pronged plan – effecting our own BCP while keeping our frontline workers safe; ensuring business continuity for our large enterprise base, many of whom had no digital-based recovery path; and of course, keeping people connected within their homes.

Our offices, network monitoring centres (SNOCs), retail stores and customer care moved to employees’ homes and we equipped them with devices loaded with complete security firewall.

And we ensured that every employee and associate, or our Network Warriors, who had to step out of the house was fully trained on our comprehensive Covid protocol and was provided adequate safety gears.

I must thank the Government of India for its invaluable support by fast-tracking approvals for movement of frontline workers during the lockdown. The industry was hugely motivated when the Hon’ble Prime Minister appreciated their efforts at an event last year.

Connecting The Unconnected

We offered support to 100 million low income group users – many being migrants – through free talktime and validity extension. With Unlock 2.0, we are offering complimentary voice & data benefits to a large workforce coming back to their workplaces.

Our CSR projects are bringing about positive social impact through technology based solutions, during the pandemic. Vi provided digital educational content and dispensed scholarships.

For women facing abuse or suppression while being lockedin, we designed the MyAmbar app for immediate support and counselling. For distressed children, we revamped Childline 1098 for quicker and more efficient response by frontline support organisations.

In Crisis, Lies An Opportunity

The pandemic has not only fasttracked our own digital transformation but also catalyzed digital adoption at an unprecedented scale both at individual and institutional level in India.

Vi resorted to digital tools to ensure our customers could recharge, and retailers and distributors transact.

Catalysing Digital Economy

Vi made a definitive shift from a ‘Telco’ to a Techco’, helping businesses stay in ‘Work On’ mode and keep the wheels of economy running. Our suite of Mobility, IoT, Cloud, Security and Connectivity solutions for large enterprises, public sector, MSMEs, start-ups and SOHOs kept all sectors of the economy operational and productive.

We are also engaged with vaccine makers, pharma companies, air and road transport operators and logistics players to deploy IoT solutions for supply chain visibility of cold chains, monitoring and managing logistics, aiding Government’s Covid vaccination drive.

Pandemic Made Us Stronger

Despite all odds, Vi became the fastest 4G network during the year of the pandemic. We executed country’s biggest brand launch with all our people working from home.

Having braved the second wave, we are now entering the 5G era. We built a 5G-ready network and incorporated technologies to cater to smart cities, smart machines and smart citizens. VI’s 5G test beds are now ready. Soon we will test India specific use cases and take our customers on another exciting journey into the digital era.

  • Takkar is MD/CEO of Vodafone Idea Limited

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