Bharti Airtel to establish call centers across Africa

India’s largest telecom company, Bharti Airtel has announced plans to set up call centers in all of its 16 operations in Africa in partnership with other global ICT giants.

This comes just months after it has bought out Zain Africa, including Ghana, for $10.7 billion.

A statement on the Bharti Airtel’s website quoted the CEO, Manoj Kohli as saying that the company will create call centers with partners including IBM Corp., Tech Mahindra and SPANCO, with initial contracts of five years.

It said the move comes as Indian outsourcing firms began hiring sprees this year to take advantage of job losses stemming from the global economic downturn.

“We are confident that Africa will revolutionize the outsourcing sector,” Kohli said.

Earlier in the year, Bharti signed a 10-year contract with IBM for IBM to provide and manage the computing technology and services that power Bharti Airtel’s mobile communications network in all the 16 countries in Africa.

At that point, Bharti Airtel assured Africans that it will revolutionize the way Africans communicate.

In June this year, Bharti announced it would invest $600 million in Nigeria’s mobile phone market, but the company faces a fight in its hopes to expand in that country as MTN Nigeria already holds a 50% market share while other networks also vie for customers.

In Ghana, Bharti is expected to rebrand Zain Ghana to Airtel Ghana by the close of year, but again faces stiff competition from runaway market leader MTN Ghana, which commands 54% market share.

But Bharti has stated its intentions in the strongest of terms by poaching no less a person than the Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Ghana, George Kwadwo Andah, who now works as Airtel’s CMO at the continental level.

Meanwhile, Zain Ghana’s Corporate Communications Director, Carmen Bruce-Annan has also moved to Vodafone Ghana, and due to start work on Monday, November 1, 2010.

Bharti reportedly faces challenges in its Indian market, as a price war has driven costs down to less than 1 cent a minute.

The price war has also begun in Africa where, Bharti, for instance, is one of two companies (the other being Vodafone) that now charges only eight Ghana pesewas (about half of a cent) for one minute of call.

Meanwhile, MTN Ghana recently launched three new price plans that offer customers as low as 7.5 Ghana pesewas per minute of calls, including even foreign calls in some cases.

Bharti’s other holdings in Africa include networks in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
By Samuel Dowuona

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