Monday, October 31, 2005

Sucheta Dalal on the Murthy-Gowda slugfest

Writing in The Financial Express, Sucheta Dalal gives us Another view of the Murthy-Gowda slugfest.

Her main point is that none of the other industry leaders came in support of Narayana Murthy. The non-IT industry leaders are, she opines, probably gleeful that for once the IT industry is also getting screwed by the politicians. This is what she says:
The first quietly contrarian view is from industrialists in the traditional manufacturing sector. One of them pointed out that the debate over unionisation of IT workers and the Deve Gowda-Murthy controversy has, for the first time, forced the ‘pristine clean’ IT sector to taste the murky world in which others are forced to operate. From licenses and permissions at municipal levels to central clearances, such as environment and pollution, Indian industrialists have been forced to bend, crawl and grease the palms of netas and babus. Many hated doing it, but were forced to find ways to operate the ‘system’. The IT industry bypassed this muck and thrived in the absence of laws and regulations.

It’s probably why Indian industry associations, who otherwise compete to have Mr Murthy as a speaker, have maintained a thundering silence over the issue. As someone told me: “Infosys will soon realise that the world may be getting flatter, but the terrain remains rather bumpy in our little patch.” An obvious reference to Thomas Friedman’s glowing references to the Infosys gang in his bestseller.
Murthy has every reason to be pissed off at the lack of support he is getting. His nephew and MphasiS BFL's chief Jerry Rao should at least have said things in support of Murthy. I was also disappointed in not hearing anything from Azim Premji.

This is not the time to sit quiet and let the demagogues manipulate the mass opinion.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

First Tamil, next Hindi and now Telugu

Couple of days back Dayanidhi Maran launched free Telugu software, fonts etc., developed by C-DAC. Having seen the Tamil pack, I can guess what will be there in the software pack - to be given away free to public:
  • Fonts (Unicode and perhaps non-Unicode as well)
  • Open office, localised for Telugu
  • Optical Character Recognition
  • Localised Columba e-mail client
  • Few other utilities
The Hindu report indicated that there is a "Speech Interface" for systems. I do not know what this means.

When this software pack was launched in April 2005 for Tamil, it was out and out, a political affair. There were plenty of people from the media - and they had no bloody clue about the product. I had gone through the product in detail when I could get my hands on to it. I found the assemblage of software pieces quite random, not always well-chosen. It appeared as though C-DAC was pressured into creating something in a hurry, to target the Tamil New Year Day. There were talks of improper deals involving certain members of Kanithamiz Sangam (The site is not functional now) - a body of Tamil software developers. I have some posts on this in my Tamil blog -- One | Two | Three | Four.

In July, the Hindi pack was launched. Subsequently, I noticed a review of the pack by Vinay Jain in his blog (in Hindi). I had a bit of this translated to Tamil in my Tamil blog entry.

I would be keen to look at whether there has been any improvements for this Telugu launch.

In my view, the OCR was fairly good for Tamil. However Vinay Jain pointed out that the Hindi version OCR didn't work. I believe Kannada/Telugu script as well as Devanagari script are more complex to deal with, when it comes to OCR. Tamil is relatively simpler. Of course, Roman script is the simplest. I am looking forward to the review of the Telugu pack. Do send me any pointers in the blog space of any such review.

A fair amount of public money is being spent on this development and I hope people benefit from it. To my knowledge, after the initial euphoria, the Tamil world has forgotten about this package. I would like to know the statistics of number of requests for this free software, and the fulfillments C-DAC is making per month for the Tamil and Hindi packs.

The route ahead for Bharti Televentures

The Hindu Business Line has a neat analysis on The route ahead for Bharti Televentures, post Vodafone investment.

Worth reading.

Mobile cheque payments

Solzaire writes in his blog about AirTel and SBI teaming together to offer mobile based cheque payments, enabled by technology from A.Little.World Private Limited.

The process seems to be

1. Move money from your SBI a/c into your mobile a/c with AirTel
2. A merchant - through a specialised mobile device, or simply a mobile phone with enhanced SIM card (provided by AirTel), will make a query to the cutomer's mobile phone for the required amount - for the services he has rendered.
3. Through specialised menu (which will be available in an enhanced SIM card that AirTel will provide), on the customer's mobile phone, the payment is authorised.

All this merely requires SMS messages to be enabled.

I think this is a brilliant solution. Variation in implementations would emerge shortly.

A mobile operator, a bank and/or a credit card provider will step in to implement a solution provided by a technology provider to make this possible.

A Little World seems to be an interesting company to track.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Vodafone buys 10% of Bharti

Reuters reports: Vodafone buys 10 percent of India's Bharti

In what is probably the biggest news in Indian mobile sector, Vodafone has bought out the stake held by Warburg Pincus (which has made massive returns all across on its investment in Bharti) and some more from Bharti enterprises (the promoter), to get to 10% in Bharti Televentures.

I am sure this would have been done after discussions between Bharti and Singtel, the other major investor in Bharti Televentures. What would be Singtel's long term interest in Bharti? Vodafone is a more aggressive player in the mobile segment - much more than Singtel.

It would be interesting to watch...

This is certainly bound to push up Bharti's stock price.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Govt working on multilingual domain names : Maran

Hindustan Times reports: Govt working on multilingual domain names

In a HCL organized function, Dayanidhi Maran has talked about working on an implementation of multilingual domain names. Multilingual domain names are in existence in the chinese belt. Maran would be looking at Devanagari and Dravidian fonts (and languages).

In the December 2005 INFITT conference organized in Singapore, we had discussed this issue (Tamil domain names). Maniam of made a presentation and demonstration of Tamil domain names, but it called for running a small application on the host computer.

With India's full support, Dravidian/Nagari domain names can flourish quite a bit. The .in domain registrars would be more than happy to offer these domain names.

While it is a bit unclear to me what the immediate impact of this will be for the common people, this is something that needs to be done anyway.

India however still lacks content in Indian languages.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cabinet decision may lead to reduction in investments, says ESPN

Story on Malayala Manorama: Cabinet decision may lead to reduction in investments: ESPN

ESPN's RC Venkateish is the most outspoken industry leader so far on this issue of Indian cabinet rigging the sports rights field in favour of Prasar Bharati.

Terming this move as "extremely disheartening and not fair", he further says "We will have to look at what is notified before moving further on the issue. Legal option, if at all required, will be the very, very last option."

He talks of reduction in investment and not considering several sporting properties at all. I personally believe private sports channels will be unviable in the present scenario and this will wipe out several sporting bodies in India, and also impoverish BCCI in the long run. No one is eventually a winner.

More than this, the whole thing looks palpably unethical. Any law passed with retrospective effect reeks of bad intention on the part of the government. This Manmohan Singh government did that in case of excise duty payments in the ITC issue, and now again.

Previous articles:
Prasar Bharati wants matches involving Pak, Aus, Eng as well!
Channels will lose Rs. 350 crores
Tracking Government's Sports Rights policies
DD to get feed of vital sports events from all channels

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Prasar Bharati wants matches involving Pak, Aus, Eng as well!

Sports Rights sharing policy...

Indian Express reports: Prasar queers pitch; wants matches involving Pak, Australia

In a hilarious statement today Prasar Bharati's CEO KS Sarma has told FE that "We will only push to include cricket tournaments held in countries like Pakistan, Australia, England and Sri Lanka as events of national importance. We don’t want smaller tournaments."

The attempt, as you can clearly see, is to include other matches which may also generate some money and thereby completely obliterate private channels.

In other news, which is not entirely relevant for the main issue at hand, Delhi High Court has restrained BCCI from disposing of any further rights.

When BCCI put its four year rights last year up for tender, ESPN Star Sports and Zee were the front runners. Zee won it, BCCI (Read: Dalmiya) didn't like this and did all in his powers to bring ESPN back in. Zee went to court. The drama was too complex. Supreme court had to examine whether power of writ could be applied against BCCI, whether BCCI is a 'state' body or private body and so on. Then concluded that a fresh re-bid had to happen. BCCI then rigged the bids so that Zee will be automatically disqualified. But in between there has been a few events whose rights were awarded to Prasar Bharati as a stop-gap arrangement, on a tour by tour basis.

Now, with uncertainty on the Prasar Bharati rights issue brought in by the govt., Zee and ESPN will have to think hard on what to do next. They would have to fight the Govt. on one side and the shady politics of BCCI on the other.

BCCI itself is involved in its own mess - its own internal elections. So BCCI is not even reacting to the Govt. policies whereas it should be up in arms against the current draft policy.

Sad, sad, sad situation.

Previous articles:
Channels will lose Rs. 350 crores
Tracking Government's Sports Rights policies
DD to get feed of vital sports events from all channels

Monday, October 24, 2005

Channels will lose Rs. 350 crores

My tracking on Sporting Rights to be shared with Doordarshan.

Business Standard says Sports channels will lose as much as Rs. 350 crores on subscription revenues.

Sports channels get 50% of their revenues from subscription (apparently this number is 25% for other channels). If feed must be shared with Doordarshan, no one will subscribe to the sporting channels - well, a small number of people would. So the only revenue will be advertisement revenue.

Now, at this point, a sports channel can as well close their channel and become a rights hawking agency, since the "high interest" feed will be on Doordarshan, for which someone else may do the marketing. So the only revenue available will be 75% of the airtime marketing money in India.

ESPN Star Sports MD RC Venkateish seems to have come up with the most vocal opposition: "This is a clear violation of intellectual property rights and a very negative move by the government. The government has not taken any recommendation by the industry into consideration."

A head of a foreign broadcaster (name not indicated, I suspect Ten Sports) seems to have said: "We see both advertisement and subscription revenue coming down as a result of this. It makes business completely unviable."

However Business Standard makes a mistake with the following statement... "For cricket broadcast, private players will have to share live feed with Prasar Bharati even if rights are acquired before the notification of the new policy. Thus, Sony, which has broadcasting rights for the next Cricket World Cup, will have to share feed with Prasar Bharati."

Sony did not acquire Terrestrial rights for this event in India. As such, ICC and GCC were well within their rights to sell terrestrial rights to Prasar Bharati last time. They will continue to do so this time as well. Now, would Prasar Bharati enfore ICC to give the rights to them on a 75-25 sharing ratio? ICC can refuse and simply not offer the feed. They may want outright money. The govt. can force Sony to share the feed for terrestrial broadcasts, since Sony never bought that from ICC.

Ah, here is an interesting issue. A private operator can do a deal with the original rights owner - the BCCI or ICC etc. The deal would be as follows. ICC shall not sell terrestrial rights to anyone in India. It shall be extinguished. ICC sells only the satellite rights to Sony (or ESPN etc.). Now? The govt. of India cannot force the private satellite operator to offer the feed to them, since the private operator has no right to share something that they do not own.

I would like to see someone test this theory. The courts will side with the private operator.

DNA has an article as well, no new insights though.

My previous posts in this topic:
Tracking Government's Sports Rights policies
DD to get feed of vital sports events from all channels

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tracking Government's Sports Rights policies

Couple of days back, I came up with my immediate views on Govt. policy dictating that specific sports telecasts (read: cricket telecasts) must be shared with Doordarshan. I have decided to track this issue carefully and blog it extensively. reports that some sports broadcasters are shocked by the news (no doubt they should be). ESPN India managing director RC Venkateish says "It’s a retrograde step that could have been done without". However Zee Telefilms senior vice-president Ashish Kaul says "We have been always open to sharing feed with DD and welcome this step taken by the government". Other key players (SET, Ten) have not commented anything in public yet.

Prasar Bharati CEO K.S.Sarma says Government decision does not give unfair advantage to his channel. His contention is that "... both the private broadcasters, ESPN and Zee Sports, had agreed to share the feed with us. So how can one say that the rights are being devalued?" Sarma must be thick... Earlier both channels had agreed to share the feed, but on their own terms. Now, the Govt. is legislating that the feed must be shared (that is you have no choice) and it should be done without putting up any pre-condition, fixed fee etc. and at 75:25 sharing ratio - that is, even the financials are legislated! Further, who markets the airtime will be "mutually decided", we are told! With the right owner's hands to twisted, Prasar Bharati will demand that they will do the marketing. Or at least, they can meddle in the marketing to their heart's content, as they have nothing to lose in the process. opines that the cabinet recommendation will be legally contested, as I had indicated.

Let us watch the story unfold...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Mumbai choked, check migrants: Thackeray

Indian Express: Mumbai choked, check migrants: Thackeray

Thackeray wants to convert Mumbai into a city state and start issuing 'entry permits'. He has not thought about what the impact will be if every bursting state capital implements the same. Bangalore, as we all know, is in deep trouble because of poor infrastructure. I can tell you that Chennai is probably only marginally better, but crumbling as well. Mumbai has been worse, because of higher population and the structure of the city. It cannot grow radially.

Where there are opportunities, people will rush in. Shiv Sena cannot demand that such people only be Marathi speaking ones. Just as a lot of Mumbaikars are living in Bangalore, Bangaloreans in Chennai and so on.

Unlike in the past, I hope people now completely ignore Thackeray's rants.

DD to get feed of vital sports events from all channels

Deccan Herald writes: DD to get feed of vital sports events from all channels

In an utterly shocking news - something that goes against the grain of a free market, liberal country - Indian cabinet has enacted a policy that needs to be contested in the court of law.

Deeming certain sports events as events of national importance, the Indian cabinet has deemed that these matches of national importance must be shared by the rights holders with Prasar Bharati, with the revenue share of 75:25 in favour of the rights holders, without any minimum guarantee or opportunity cost. (Thank God, at least here they think the rights holder should get majority of the revenue.)

Worse still... Prasar Bharati can "transmit the feed of such events free to air on its terrestrial network and/or satellite/DTH mode". Until now, any such feed that Prasar Bharati acquired from rights holders went only on terrestrial network. Now, the cabinet deems this feed can go on satellite and DTH mode as well.

I suspect this will be first passed as an ordinance and then pushed through the Lok Sabha as a bill?

This will be a major body blow to the emerging DTH companies and cable TV conglomerates as well as sporting associations including BCCI. This will be the start of the death of sports in India.


Good sporting bodies make their monies by allowing rival television companies to bid and outbid each other. Television networks do so in the hope that they can extract the most out of the telecast righst they acquire. Unless the rights is exclusive, the rights holders cannot force all audience to watch their channel and generate subscription and advertising revenue.

Prasar Bharati/Doordarshan is free. So no one will subscribe anymore - except a small audience - to ESPN-Star Sports, Ten Sports, SET Max, Zee Sports etc. since the key cricket games will be shown on Doordarshan, DD Sports and DD's DTH platform. This will include Tests, ODIs that India plays as well as semis and finals of major cricket tournaments.

There is no risk whatsoever for Doordarshan.

The rewards to private television networks will diminish. So they will move away from acquiring the rights. This will result in rights broking intermediaries to emerge again. Such companies ruled the roost in the past - TWI, Stracon, Nimbus, UTV and such. They will acquire the rights instead of TV networks. This will bring down the value of the rights in the medium term. The rights holders will have to tussle with Doordarshan on who will have to market the airtime. Rights holders will be uncomfortable with a lethargic marketing of Doordarshan since 75% of a low number is low. Doordarshan is not interested in increasing the profits, since the handout from the government is always nearby. Losses are acceptable for them.

BCCI will get less money in the process. (Though that may be a good thing - undesiarable elements from BCCI may leave...) Other sports may not suffer much ininitially. But the Govt. may always amend their rules to make more and more sports under the list of events to be shown on Doordarshan.

Our television regulation is a mess. Chennai alone suffers from set top box regime. The govt., instead of dealing with this mess, has given in to lobbying from Doordarshan on sporting rights issue.

By sensibly regulationg private television networks, keeping distribution platforms away from channels and legislating that all channels must be made available on each distribution platform, by regulating the cost per channel subscription properly... better quality content can be made available at cheaper prices to people.

The current move is not good. But it will be welcomed by people in huge numbers in 'letter to the editor' column tomorrow.

I hope Zee, ESPN-Star and Ten together go to court against this ridiculous move.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Rajesh Jain picks this item up from The New York Times that "media companies have begun experimenting with broadcasting original programming made specifically for mobile phones to increase awareness of their television shows and movies."

But the time is not too far for creating quality "television like" programs for mobile phones.

I am too pained with the content currently available on high end mobile phones in India. They are just too boring. Hutch started showing cricket clips. For the hopelessly one-sided ICC-XI v Australian XI matches, almost all networks in India showed the cricket clips. The clips were lower quality, grainy and simply not up to the mark - primarily because of the low bandwidth available.

But the price was cheap. Rs. 50 for the entire series (3 ODIs + 1 Test). Add to that, the monthly sign-on charges and download charges per kilobyte.

But beyond that, there is nothing useful out there in India! I consider the Indian mobile phone companies predominantly ... shall we say, intellectually challenged? There is very little innovation happening there, driven by them. All they want is their pound of flesh - sometimes as much as 75% of the total revenues generated, leaving the content developer to split the rest with some possible intermediary or infrastructure provider.

Most Indian FMCGs seem to think of jumping into a deal with mobile2win or some such mobile marketing companies. What exactly they are marketing is unclear to me. I would hate to receive any marketing message from companies, before I start receiving subsidised quality content on my mobile phones.

As a content developer, I am thinking of a few ideas and will have some worthwhile content to show over the coming year...

The falling Indian stock market and telecom

I suspected that the Sensex figure of 8800+ on BSE to be overly high. In about 40 days or so over September and October, Sensex shot up crazily - from around 8000 to 8800+. Now it has come back to less than 8000. (7,935.12 on Thursday, October 20th.) This level seems more reasonable, at least for now (from what the technical analysts seem to indicate).

However, nothing seems to have changed drastically in terms of the fundamentals, so this level is good for medium term investors. If I had some money now, I will put that on Telecom firms (Bharti). FDI cap in telecom has gone up to 74% starting today. I will put my money on Hutch IPO or any other telecom IPO. I am still not sure about Tata Indicom/VSNL though.

Meanwhile, I couldn't understand much about the DoT officers being taken back from the deputation to MTNL/BSNL. The Hindustan Times quotes Indian Telecom Services Association (ITSA) President SS Sirohi saying "Fall of MTNL and BSNL starts from today... This is what most of the private operators wanted. Department of Telecom's (DoT) order to withdraw top management officials and putting them in a surplus cell of government will affect the quality as well as growth of services." If BSNL and MTNL think these 1,000 officers are so important, offer them a bloody good pay package! They will take voluntary retirement from the Govt. service and take up your offer.

Sometimes, I find it difficult to understand employee unions.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Narayana Murthy Vs Deve Gowda

In just a matter of one day Deve Gowda flip-flopped, like only a politician can. Narayana Murthy, despite years of growing up in India, has not understood the wily games the politicians play.

Bangalore is a mess in terms of infrastructure. Not that many other Indian cities are great. They are all shoddy, poorly managed and crumbling day by day. The progress is chaotic. High rise buildings are developed by private developers, while the Government lags in providing clean and good drinking water, sufficient electricity, traffic de-congestion, public safety etc. This is felt more in Bangalore where a bunch of IT companies are working their butts off trying to generate more revenues for the country, themselves, their employees and shareholders.

So Murthy went and met the Congress (I) Chief Minister Dharam Singh and his coalition party Janata Dal (S)'s President Deve Gowda. The meeting seemed to go well based on various newspaper reports. Murthy had organized a presentation - made by Ramesh Ramanathan of Janaagraha on how urban governance has to be decentralised. Murthy and Ramanathan's contention is that "Cities have strong economic energy but poor governance structure. Rural areas have low economic energy but are blessed with a good governance structure."

On 15th October, Gowda said: "The Government is not against solving the problems. The presentation made by Mr. Murthy and Mr. Ramanathan will help to tackle problems." (The Hindu)

On 16th October, Gowda changed his tune: "... new mantra of shifting focus on urban-rural partnership is just old wine in new bottle." (The Hindu)

"At a press conference in Bangalore on Sunday, Mr Gowda was critical of Mr Murthy’s suggestion for shifting the focus in the State to urban governance and setting up urban bodies on the lines of grama sabhas. Mr Gowda remarked that “the views of high-profile and elite personalities are different from ground reality.” Mr Gowda wondered if Mr Murthy knew the problems of rural life." (Deccan Herald)

OK. So after a day of deliberations, Gowda has decided to attack Murthy's ideas as bunkum. But then, it doesn't stop there. Now, in the time honoured true Indian politician's tradition, you have to go for Murthy's jugular. So what do we do? Dig his past. Dig Infosys' past. Aha! Government has given some land to Infosys. Infosys is asking for more land from Government. (I am assuming these lands are not given for free? And that some payment - reasonable payment - is made?)

Now, over to Gowda: "He claimed that Infosys had acquired 78 acres of land in Bangalore, 350 acres in Mysore and 311 acres in Mangalore. Further claiming that the company had sought allotment of about 845 acres of land near Sarjapura and Anekal taluk for setting up software development centre and residential township, he cautioned the chief minister on taking a final decision on approval. “This will not only attract public criticism, but also bring discredit to government,” he said." (Deccan Herald)

"Cautioning" the chief minister means only one thing. You dare not give the land to Infosys. I will pull the plug on your govt. Gowda is smart. If Infosys says it has provided great many jobs to people in Karnataka, here comes the immediate reply... "I am sure companies like Wipro, Intel, Accenture, IBM, HP and Honeywell, which have not been allotted government land and functioning mostly in rented buildings, account for more than 85 per cent jobs provided by the IT firms in Bangalore." (Deccan Herald)

And in any case make another issue through other fronts... Infosys probably doesn't employ enough Kannadigas! So Murthy has to rush in with some data - "Infosys had provided over 10,400 jobs to Kannadigas, of its total strength of over 45,000. Five on our Board are Kannadigas. Those levelling allegations against Infosys should get data from us." (Deccan Herald)

But Gowda immediately assures... "the government will not allow any IT company to go away from the State." (Deccan Herald)

Providing rural and urban infrastructure is the job of the Government. Responsible corporate citizens and common citizens have every right to complain about the shoddy services delivered by inept governments and politicians whose only interest is lining their own pockets.

I doubt if Infosys and other similar companies will continue to put up with the likes of Gowda for too long. If he is going to remain in power, the companies will leave. Other states are more than willing to receive them. Gowda cannot stop the exodus.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

MSN-Yahoo! messengers to talk, while Google is rumoured to bid for AOL

When Google started its messenger business with its 'Google Talk', it was inevitable for MSN and Yahoo! to look at interoperability across their messengers.

The news now is that they will look towards integrating communication across their platforms by second quarter of 2006. Google has said it had always wanted interoperability across IMs, but Yahoo! and MSN may deny that to Google Talk for some time to come.

In another news today, WSJ reported that Google and Comcast together may bid for a stake in AOL's content and messenger business (leaving out the dialup Internet connectivity business).

When Yahoo! and MSN attempt to tie-up the messenger chatting, they should also explore channelling the voice chat across the two platforms. This will force Google and AOL at least to consider something similar. Skype/E-bay would then have to enter into alliances with one or both of these groups.

The result of such a VoIM federation will have serious consequences for Telecom companies and VoIP companies around the world.

Note that Tata VSNL now owns one of the important and large VoIP player in the world, though India itself is a fairly poor market for VoIP as of now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sub-10k moped

While a whole lot of people are looking at Sub-10k PC, there is more of a need for a Sub-10k motorised, petrol driven two wheeler.

The lowest costing two-wheeler is more in the range of 16-18k. A Sub-10k no-frills, high mileage vehicle would help a lot of rural, semi-urban Indians. As far urban India, mass transit public transportation models are the best.

Does anyone know of any Indian engineering companies working on such a product? What kind of options are available in Chinese imports?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Indian Telecom Numbering Mess

Indian Telecom authorities, namely the Department of Telecommunication, function in a reckless manner.

To this day, they have not arrived at a decent telephone numbering model. Every few years the number of digits in telephone number have changed - from 5 digits to 6 digits to 7 digits and finally 8 digits. The prefixing numbers changed to accomodate private telecom players who started providing fixed line telephone connection over the last few years.

The STD code, a very inefficient coding system currently prevalent in India - the code could be anywhere from 2 digits (leaving out the beginning 0) to upto 5 digits is a total mess. And suddenly the STD code changes when the DoT and BSNL decide that some telecom circles are merged. This is happening now to Chennai's surrounding districts like Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu, Thiruvallur etc. They are all being merged with Chennai's telecom circle. No doubt this is a good news to customers in terms of lower tariff, but the cost to the businesses is huge. About 6 four-digit STD codes are changing to 44. And all the telephone numbers in these locations are changing too - to 8 digit numbers.

Now, going forward, the mess will be even greater. Bharti and Tata Indicom were both offered numbers starting in 5 (BSNL 2, Reliance 3). Now, Bharti is going to be offered numbers starting from 4 and Tata 6. This mess will result in massive costs for the telecom operators as well as their customers.


The USA numbering system is pretty neat and there has been no change in its numbering policies drastically over the last several decades! What prevents India from adapting something similar? The cost will be one off. All area codes are uniform and of 3 digits. Then, the phone number is 7 digits.

A country with such a massive teledensity as USA has not needed 8 digit telephone numbers. But then, there is only one basic operator for a given local area. But India has now allowed multiple operators in each local area. So one could introduce the differentiating 8th digit (the first digit - 2 for BSNL, 3 for Reliance and so on). However, for the sake of uniformity, we should also look at all area codes to be of 3 digits and all phone numbers to be of 1+7 digits.

The current system of 2 to 5 digits for area codes (which will change randomly!) and anywhere from 5 to 8 digits for the telephone numbers will create large scale confusion and massive costs to customers and operators in the long run.

The mobile numbering system is also awful, whereas US has not had to come up with some unique numbering system model for the mobile phones. (UK had a different kind of numbering system though.)

India has to also overhaul the toll-free numbering system (and the premium call rate system) which have numbers suspiciously similar to an ISD call to USA (numbers go as 1-600-xxx-yyyy !!!)

Will someone please tell Dayanidhi Maran to look into this?