BSNL steps up office IT play

BSNL steps up office IT playBharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the state-owned telecom firm, is readying to give information technology (IT) firms a run for their money. It will offer client companies all office-related software solutions as well as network connectivity. A formal announcement is expected from BSNL this March, sources said.

BSNL has been a provider of network bandwidth since its inception. About two years ago, it entered into a tie-up with Chennai-based Novatium to provide a personal computer (PC) - NetPC - for less than Rs 5,000. NetPC users can access all software applications by downloading them from the internet.

On the condition of anonymity, an analyst tracking the telecom sector said BSNL's latest effort to provide software applications bridges the gap between the PC and the network. Other telecom players might also emulate the PSU giant's move towards becoming a systems administrator for clients, he said.
Sources said BSNL is looking to tap the small and medium enterprises (SME) segment. The company plans to provide office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Acrobat in addition to operating systems and database applications on a pay-per-use basis.

BSNL started its managed services business in November last year, under which it provides hardware-based solutions such as router and firewall, connectivity solutions such as broadband and leased line, and services such as setting up of equipment, building of portals and maintenance of equipment.

Since its launch, BSNL's managed services business has notched up 100 customers. Sunil Kumar, the chief general manager in charge of BSNL's managed services unit, said, "As the entire stack of our managed services offering is on a pay-per-use basis, smaller companies are showing more interest." Kumar claims that the operational expenditure model helps client companies reduce their network-related costs by 20% as against the ownership model.

The company, however, will have to battle stiff competition from private telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel and Tata Communications, who have wide presence in the Rs 1,000-crore managed services space in India.

Amit Tripathi DNA