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Constrained by policy from investing in the domestic market outside Delhi and Mumbai, the cash-rich Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) is expanding abroad in a big way. It has won licences for operating cellular mobile, WLL and international long distance (ILD) services in Mauritius . It has also acquired licence for providing fixed line telecom services in Kenya and is providing CDMA-based mobile services in Nepal. It also plans to bid for licences in the Persian Gulf and CIS countries. The company has a cash reserve of Rs 2,300 crore.

"We cannot keep our money in banks for a very long period. We need to invest it judiciously so as to earn maximum profit," said RSP Sinha, CMD of MTNL. Currently, the company is restricted to providing telecom services in Delhi and Mumbai. Mauritius Telecom is the only international long distance (ILD) service provider in Mauritius . MTNL would be the second ILD operator. MTNL is not allowed to provide ILD services in India .

The government has committed to the Tata group that VSNL would be a preferred ILD carrier for MTNL and BSNL for a two-year period ending February '04. MTNL would be the first operator to offer WLL services based on CDMA 1x technology in Mauritius and would be the third operator in GSM-based mobile telephone services. "Our investments in Mauritius will be to the tune of Rs 100 crore," said Mr Sinha.

He became MTNL's CMD in November, prior to which he was director (finance) in MTNL. An electrical engineer by qualification, Mr Sinha has expertise both in technology and in finance. He was director (finance) of VSNL before joining MTNL. His focus is in improving revenues and profits of MTNL. "This can happen by imporving our services and expanding into other markets," said Mr Sinha. His biggest worry is to enthuse and prepare groups "c" and "d" employees to face competition. He has started the practice of holding regular meetings with them. The idea is to make them realise the importance of competition. "All the employees should realise that a customer has an option to go to our competitors," said Mr Sinha.

In Kenya , MTNL would provide fixed line services in a joint venture with state-owned Telecom Consultants India and a local partner. It would have 40% stake in the company.

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