I have been associated with the telecom industry almost since its inception and have seen the industry through its various ups and downs over a period of nearly 25 years.
For a commerce/business economics student, it was a trial by fire when I joined the industry association COAI in 1998, when the nascent telecom industry on the brink of bankruptcy, with claims and counter claims flying strong & frequently. The industry was a tight knit group at that time with all operators facing the same challenges and fighting for survival.
The landmark migration package and visionary telecom policy of 1999 was a satisfying culmination of a year of hard work where I had the privilege of seeing the industry leaders in action to fight to save the industry, and save it they did.
And that was just the beginning. There has never been a dull moment with constant challenges and new learnings at every stage, confirming the well-known saying ‘what does not kill you, only makes you stronger.’
The next 25 years were exciting – first seeing the industry through the eyes of the industry association where I got to interact with industry leaders and get the top down view of the telecom sector and then as a part of Vodafone and now Vodafone Idea Limited since 2018.
Over the years, I have dealt with virtually every aspect of this sector – starting with looking at regulatory issues, policy and litigation and then moving on to corporate affairs and engagement with Government and other key external stakeholders. Engaging with leading legal counsel gave me an insight into brilliant minds at work. The historic litigation on limited mobility – which culminated in the introduction of the unified access licensing regime, the dual spectrum allocations, the cancellation of licenses in 2012, the call drop matter, all were landmark judgments that settled important points of law. Simultaneously, there was a regulatory framework that was slowly evolving – with the industry involved at every stage. Now in my engagement with the bureaucracy, I am getting to understand and appreciate all points of view – learning to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes.
Everything I learned about telecom – whether about the technology or the regulations, it was on the job. With good mentors through my career, the complex issues were often explained in the simplest of languages – which was essential when one was briefing lawyers. A point of great amusement was when the lawyers thought I was an engineer & the technologists and regulators thought I was a lawyer!!
The interesting part about the telecom sector [and maybe in other sectors] is the constantly evolving nature of the sector and the technology – with a new and fresh set of challenges thrown at you at every turn. We have evolved from 2G to 3G, 4G and now 5G, with 6G already knocking at our doors.
Now, the industry faces a different set of challenges – the emergence of different players in the digital ecosystem that are offering similar services but are subject to different regulatory frameworks. A light touch regulatory regime which puts all digital players at par – is a desired goal. Some work in this regard has started with the draft Telecom Bill recently floated by the Government for comments of stakeholders. Other developments of note include the draft data protection bill, and an imminent review of the IT Act.
25 years ago, I was, I think, the only woman representative in the regulatory field – with boardrooms and meetings being overwhelmingly dominated by male colleagues. I would like to think that I broke the glass ceiling for Women in the telecom regulatory space, paving the way for many, many more women in the telecom regulatory field.
It has indeed been a satisfying journey and I am gratified that the path that I first walked on, is now a well-trodden one.
Senior Vice President - Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Vodafone Idea Limited
- Associated with the telecom sector virtually since its inception
- Wide experience in telecom across a range of policy, regulatory and legal issues
- Joined COAI in 1998 and moved to Vodafone in 2010 and then part of the Vodafone Idea team since 2018