by Shubhra Rishi

Sterlite Technologies Spin Up Growth with Digital Thread

Jun 25, 2015

There’s no loose thread in Sterlite Technologies’ plan to strengthen India’s digital infrastructure.

When Anand Agarwal took over the reins of leadership at the loss-ridden Sterlite Technologies in 2003, there’s wasn’t even a bit of doubt in his head on how he would bring it back on its rails. Agarwal says just being a product company in a particular domain could have restricted our growth potential. But today, the company is not just India’s only fully integrated optical fiber producer and one of the largest suppliers of optical fibers to overseas markets, but it has also diversified into several other profitable businesses. From being a manager to the CEO of Sterlite Technologies, what made you stay (given your rich academic background) to the company since its inception?  I took over the CEO role at Sterlite during the time when the company was going through a downturn – suffering losses worth Rs 70-80 crore that year.  At the time, we were only producing optical fibers in some parts of the world. Our immediate goal was to bring the cost down, focus on new geographies, convert the losses into a breakeven, and then gradually to a profit. Therefore, we expanded our product portfolio–adding power, solutions and infrastructure–to our offerings. Therefore, if you know the background and the culture of the organization, it helps you steer the role and the organization in a direction that you want to.  So why did you feel the need to diversify? At the time, we were the only large player in the optical fiber industry (which is a USD 5-6 billion dollar industry).  So we didn’t want to be a large company in a small industry. Our ambition and vision was to create a large solutions company globally. It was a requirement from a customer base which prompted us to embark the system integration business, or emphasize our move to telecom and power sector. We understood the gaps in the industries and matched them with the opportunities in the market to the capabilities we had. Just being a product company in a particular domain can restrict your growth potential.  Today, we are pretty happy with what we have, and the growth it can create globally.  An IT Enabled Journey to the Top for Sterlite: Anand Agarwal Sterlite is in talks with the government for overall implementation and execution of Digital India infrastructure. That looks like a mammoth task. Tell us about your company’s Digital India vision? Clearly, it’s about putting a billion people on the internet. Our role in the government’s digital India initiative is to create the infrastructure. We realize that providing broadband connectivity for a billion people is a huge vision of the government, and we are capable of playing that large role in the broad vision. We plan to create the entire digital infrastructure by providing end to end equipment through our system integration capability.  Sterlite is already a key optic fiber cable supplier for the national optic fiber network (NOFN) project that will provide high-speed Internet to about 2.5 lakh village blocks across India. Initially, our plan was to connect 50,000 gram panchayats, and later, about 200,000 of them. Once this gets realized, it will empower the country like never before.  Case Study: Sterlite Technologies Secures Business Benefits with ISO 27001Cover Story: Sterlite goes Hybrid With the government’s plan to implement the smart cities initiative in India, we will need to set up strong Wifi-networks as well. What’s going to be your company’s role in it? Sterlite Technologies is partnering with Ericsson to design, deploy, integrate and manage solutions in areas such as communications, public safety, intelligent transport and smart grid solutions, which will enable the establishment of sustainable smart cities in India. So what goes to the consumer wirelessly is backhauled on a fiber. However, we realize the need to have that interconnect capability. Even today, voice and 3G data goes through fiber, and we enable that integration.Of course, it’s going to be a marriage and not, one or the other technology.