ITC has heavily invested in communications infrastructure to reach out to
rural areas. VVR Babu, CIO, ITC talks about how the communications
infrastructure is important in taking the business initiative further and the
challenges he faced with the service providers. Excerpts:
How important is the communication/network infrastructure to your
enterprise in its current and future business prospects?
Our communications infrastructure network comprising of VPN, VSAT, leased
lines, etc., is the main backbone for the company to conduct business. This
network is spread across the length and breadth of the country and presently
integrates 380 plus operating locations of the company. It also connects us to
our customers, suppliers, and other business partners. This network will
continue to grow as IT penetrates to integrate all our business partners.
What are some of the key issues you witness in your communication and
Non-availability of terrestrial links to a majority of our remote, rural
locations still persists. Though most service providers claim a pan-India
presence, most of the locations we want to include in our network lack the basic
Enforcement of service level agreements with service providers is still a
challenge. You can be very articulate and very well define the SLA while signing
the contract. But to implement it is an ordeal.
High uptime SLAs are still very expensive and this is one area that needs to
be addressed. As the telecom industry in India is still evolving; the industry
dynamics do not allow us to plan too far into the future. Especially with the
current changing scenario in terms of technology and policies, it is very
difficult to chalk out a roadmap way ahead in the future.
What are the problems you face as a CIO?
Customer-focused service delivery: though vendors paint a very rosy picture,
the fact is that the customer focus is still amiss.
Lower MTTR (mean time to resolve): though the SLAs spell out stringent rules
for uptime, the time spent on resolving the problems is still very high.
We cannot truly take the benefits to the end user due to constraints from the
SPs. Consistently, there are higher expectations from the end-users with respect
to uptime and speed, which can be delivered once the SPs deliver the speed and
How do you resolve these problems?
A single vendor currently services our VPN. We would like to move to a
multi-vendor solution thereby derisking the dependency on one vendor. As there
is only one person providing the services, there is no immediate fall back to
continue the service offerings. There may be back-up plans in place but that
still puts you in a situation where you are dependent on a single service
provider. We hope that the multi-vendor strategy will also allow us wider
pan-India coverage and provide redundancy in the network.
How do you see the current infrastructure setup-as an impediment or an
impetus to the growth of business and organization?
The current infrastructure is definitely an impetus for growth of ITC's
diverse business portfolio.
ITC's businesses have leveraged this infrastructure to create new business
processes and models. E.g.,e-choupal for dis-intermediation and demand
aggregation at the village cluster level; or the greetings cards business that
used the Web for distribution of catalogs to distributors and collection of
their orders from day one.
What are the key trends in enterprise communication? What top 5
technologies are going to make a mark in future?
Implement MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) technology, as it is the
first complete and stable convergence protocol for data, voice, and video
infrastructure. MPLS offers a number of advantages over traditional
point-to-point technologies, including lower cost, greater scalability, and in
many cases, improved reliability.