Page last updated at 05:23 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 06:23 UK

Vodafone boss upbeat in global slump

By Mantej Deol
Business producer, BBC News

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Arun Sarin explains why he is so optimistic about the future of his company

Vodafone boss Arun Sarin looks the picture of health as befits a man who calls California, the UK and India home.

Vodafone sign

In an interview with the BBC, the boss of the world's largest mobile phone company was upbeat about his company's prospects at weathering the credit crunch clouds hovering over businesses in Europe and the US.

He is keen to expand the range of services offered by mobile phones as well as expand the business across the world.

For him the mobile is not just a device to make calls or send texts. It's also a satellite navigation system, it's the internet. it's a digital music player and it's a wallet.

Money transfer scheme

One of his newest projects, which has been rolled out in Kenya, Afghanistan and Tanzania is a money transfer scheme.

It will be a much-needed lifeline for people without access to ATM machines or bank accounts.

Customers pay their cash into a Vodafone shop, and receive a pin number, and then call or text the person who is receiving the money. They then go to the nearest Vodafone shop, reveal the pin number, and collect the money.

Mr Sarin, the son of a senior officer in the Indian Army, spent the first 20 years of his life in India before moving to the University of California at Berkeley.

After building a career in Silicon Valley in the telecoms industry, he was promoted to the top job at Vodafone in 2003.

Moving into India

He regards his handling of the purchase of India's Hutchinson Essar mobile phone operator in 2006 as one of his most important achievements.

Like all businesses, the growing economies of India and China are crucial to his plans as the US and Western Europe reach saturation point for mobile ownership.

He was just as happy when he heard that the Indian conglomerate, Tata, had bought Jaguar and Land Rover in Britain.

That is what globalisation was all about, he argues.

But he warned - without naming any specific nations - that it was a two-way process and countries could not opt for one-way takeovers only.

Boardroom rift

A year after ugly rumours of boardroom rifts, loud complaints about the group's share price performance, and angry investors, Mr Sarin and Vodafone appears to have turned the corner.

Profits are up, the share price has recovered, and the benefits of the expansion, particularly to India, are becoming evident.

In its most recent statement, the firm reported revenues of 9.16bn for the last three months of 2007, which was 15.8% up on the same period in 2006.

The average tenure of a FTSE 100 company boss is four and a half years, and Arun Sarin has now been in place for more than five years.

He says he is still happy in his job and there was plenty more for him to do.

For a man who lists his hobbies as golf and surfing, the California beaches will have to wait a while.


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