Rajan may be Tata Teleservices CEO

Tata Sons vice-president Mukund Govind Rajan is set to take over as the CEO of Tata Teleservices (TTSL), Mumbai-based CDMA operator. A formal announcement is expected shortly.

The decision to appoint Mr Rajan was taken last month after Darryl Green quit as CEO in May citing personal reasons. The group has zeroed in on the 39-year-old, Oxford-educated Dr Rajan who has been instrumental in driving the Tatas’ foray and expansion in the telecom sector.

“The board has taken no such decision. As a responsible corporate, we would not like to comment further on speculative queries,” a TTSL spokesperson said.

Mr Rajan is a director on the board of Tata group’s telecom ventures, TTSL and Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL). He joined the group through the Tata Administrative Service (TAS) in January 1995 and also serves on the board of Piem Hotels.

Mr Rajan is the executive assistant to Tata group chairman Ratan Tata and is working on TTSL’s tie-up with British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile. The alliance is expected to be announced before the year-end. As the next CEO of TTSL, Dr Rajan has his task clearly cut out. Besides the 50:50 JV with Virgin Mobile, he is also be involved in finding suitors for sale or lease of TTSL’s over 6,000 towers. Nine tower companies have submitted their bids to TTSL in this regard. Plus, the company is planning to add 3,000 towers this fiscal on build-operate-lease basis. Dr Rajan has already been very vocal on various issues related to spectrum, the crucial raw material for the booming telecom industry.

TTSL, the fifth largest operator, has over 18m subscribers and is offering services in 20 out of the 23 telecom circles in the country. It has applied for licences for Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and the North-East. The operator is on a major retail expansion spree and has earmarked a capex of Rs 100 crore for the initiative. The company has been increasing users by nearly 0.5m to 1m every month since October ’05 after it changed the telecom industry dynamics by introducing free lifetime incoming plans.