Vodafone India, the second largest operator in the country, restructured its management team in the face of key executive departures and intensifying competition in the wake of 4G upstart Reliance Jio extending its free voice and data offers.
Balesh Sharma, previously CEO of Vodafone Czech Republic, was appointed COO of Vodafone India’s commercial and enterprise units. Sharma replaces Naveen Chopra, who was in the position for two years and is expected to be named in a new role soon, The Economic Times (ET) reported.
The role of CCO was moved under the COO from under the CEO. The current CMO, Sandeep Kataria, now reports to the COO.
A Vodafone representative told ET it “was business as usual” and the restructuring is designed to help it make decisions faster and integrate its commercial strategy with operational teams more effectively.
Suresh Sethi, head of M-Pesa and the force behind its payments bank initiative, is expected to depart soon. While the operator named Rahul Bhagat as an adviser, the representative said it is yet to make any announcement and Sethi still leads M-Pesa, according to ET.
Ravi Santhanam, who was in charge of customer value management, a role that reported to the CMO, resigned.
The country’s top three mobile players – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular – have been forced to follow Jio’s lead with generous free voice and data offers, which has sparked a price war and hit the incumbents’ bottom lines.
Last week Vodafone Group confirmed it is in talks to merge its Indian business with local rival Idea in a deal that could create a new market leader and fend off increased competition in the market, particularly from 4G newcomer Jio.
Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said a plan to merge its Indian business with Idea is not a sign the company is exiting the market or backing away from a fight with Jio.
Vodafone India isn’t the only player looking to gain scale via a merger. Telenor India said it is interested in exploring a merger through a share swap with Aircel and Reliance Communications, which are themselves trying to merge to create the country’s third largest operator.