Eyeing the multi-billion dollar business opportunities opened by Digital India, billionaire Anil Agarwal-led Sterlite Technologies will invest up to Rs. 400 crore on capacity expansion as it targets a major part of the Rs. 72,000-croreBharatNet project.
National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) or BharatNet, which forms the backbone of the Digital India initiative, seeks to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats with high speed broadband by December 2017. The project cost is estimated to be around Rs. 72,778 crore.
“This (BharatNet) is a basic thing. Fundamentally, it is to connect India. There is a huge opportunity. We have put in close to Rs. 600 crore. Over the next few years we will invest another Rs. 300-400 crore in Sterlite,” said Agarwal.
Anil Agarwal is the Non-Executive Chairman of Sterlite Technologies.
On capacity expansion, company’s CEO Anand Agarwal said: “Our facility is global. Indian optic fibre demand till date is at around 14-15 million km. We already have a capacity of about 22 million km, which we are going to take it in stages to 30 million km.”
Sterlite has already done a lot of capacity expansion in anticipation of the demand for more internet, he added.
“We are seeing that this demand is proportional to data propagation and has been increasing year-on-year in the last two-three years. It was almost doubling every year, the amount of data which was going through the network,” he said.
Anand added that enhancing the manufacturing capacities has already been underway and the company is adding a lot of capabilities in terms of network design and engineering, etc.
“Capacity expansion for us has largely happened. Three years ago we were 12 million km, now we are 22 million km. So for us capacity is not the issue in terms of supply optical fibres,” Anand said.
Anil Agarwal, who is also the Chairman of mining giant Vedanta Resources, said Sterlite Technologies will play the role of optical fibre manufacturer, network creator, network designer, network manager and maybe even in the space of specialised services.
On the optical fibre cable (OFC) requirement for BharatNet project, Anand said: “Total OFC requirement for BharatNet will be around 50 million km, which will largely be done by us. Some will be imported, but we fulfil all the characteristics of ‘Make in India’.”
On expansion of Sterlite technologies, Anil Agarwal said: “At the moment we will make optical fibres, which is a very big business. Then we are doing this complete Digital India on the network and network is a massive.
“That is 60-70 per cent to be created. You have to create software, you have to get best international people to supply equipment, put things together. So that is the focus we have.”
Under the government’s ambitious Digital India, Anil Agarwal has already announced investing Rs. 40,000 crore in setting up an LCD panel manufacturing plant.