Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Idea Cellular Ltd: The GSM operator of Aditya Birla Group

Founded in 1995, IDEA Cellular is currently one of the leading GSM mobile service providers in India. IDEA Cellular became a public limited company in March 2007 by being listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE). With a subscriber base of more than 40 million in 15 different service areas, IDEA Cellular is one of the top pan-Indian mobile phone operators. It has one of the most consumer friendly and competitive pre-paid services. The company is also famous for starting many new trends in the Indian mobile phone Industry. IDEA Cellular was the first mobile operator in India to introduce trariff plans. It is also the first mobile phone operator in India to launch GPRS and EDGE.

Before getting further into talking about IDEA Cellular, it is important to talk a little bit about Aditya Birla Group, the owners of IDEA Cellular. The Aditya Birla Group is one of the leading business houses in India. It has business in 25 countries with an employee of more than 100,000. Aditya Birla Group is engaged into wide ranges of business including: financial services, telecom, software, BPO, retail, viscose staple fibre, aluminium, cement, copper, carbon black, insulators, and garments sectors.

Name: IDEA Cellular

Brand vision: To be the most customer-focused mobile service brand, continuously innovating to help liberate our customers from the shackles of time & space.

Brand values: Innovate. Stimulate. Liberate ….

Mission: “We will Delight our Customers while meeting their individual communication needs anytime anywhere.” We survive because of our customers.

Chairman: Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla


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Atos Origin

Operating circles:

  • The entire Indian region is divided into 22 (in some places it is mentioned 23) circles that are divided into three categories based on their economic potential: A,B and C.
  • Currently, IDEA Cellular exploits more than 60% of India’s telephony potential. It operates in some of the top Indian circles. These are: Andhra Pradesh & Delhi (inclusive of NCR), Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh & Chattisgarh, Mumbai, Maharashtra & Goa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (W), and Uttar Pradesh (E).
  • The 13 circles where IDEA Cellular operates are further categorized into established and new service areas.
  • Established services areas include: The established service areas are Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, Haryana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (West).
  • New Service areas include: Uttar Pradesh (East), Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Mumbai, Karnataka and Punjab.
  • IDEA Cellular is also going to expand its business in Orissa and Tamil Nadu region which will become the company’s first stepping stone towards becoming a pan Indian mobile operator.


IDEA Cellular was created in 1995. Initially, it was named Birla Communications Ltd. and it obtained licenses to provide GSM based services in the Gujarat and Maharastra circle. The next year, it was changed to Birla AT&T Communications Limited after a joint venture deal was struck between Grasim Industries and AT&T Corporation. In 2000, it merged with Tata Cellular Limited. IDEA Cellular was jointly owned by the Birlas, the Tatas and AT&T Wireless. Each of the three stakeholders had one-third stake in the company but in 2004, after AT&T Wireless merged with Cingular Wireless, Cingular decided to sell 32.9% stake of the company which was eventually bought by the Tatas and the Birlas, two of the most influential business houses of India. Things became complicated when IDEA Cellular applied for license to operate in Mumbai. Tata Indicom, a CDMA mobile operator and a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Group, was already operating in the city, it conflicted with one of the pre-conditions of the license procurement process which states that a particular mobile promoter can not have a stake share of more than 10% in two mobile operators operating in the same circle. Hence, Tata had to sell its share of stake. In April 2006, Aditya Birla Group acquired 48.18% stake from Tata for a price of Rs.44.06 billion. Currently, Aditya Birla Group and its subsidiary companies jointly hold 49.1% of the total shares of the company.


Out of the total 320,330,393 mobile connections in India, IDEA Celluar has 31,582,937. Here is a province wise break down of the number of mobile phone subscribers of IDEA cellular.

Maharashtra and Goa - 6,260,690

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - 4,137,200

Andhra Pradesh - 4,325,204

Kerala - 3,712,887

Gujarat - 3,327,261

Uttar Pradesh (West) & Uttarakhand - 3,372,808

Delhi - 2,216,027

Haryana - 1,341,146

Uttar Pradesh (East) - 1,457,570

Rajasthan - 1,062,526

Himachal Pradesh - 117,253

Mumbai - 178,378

Bihar & Jharkhand - 73,987


  • For two straight years, IDEA Cellular won GSM Association Award for “Best Billing and Customer Care Solution.”
  • By acquiring Spice Telecom for more than more than Rs. 270 million, a subsidiary of Modi Group, IDEA Cellular entered in Karnataka and Punjab circle in 2008. After acquisition, the name of the company was changed from Spice to IDEA.
  • Shortly after acquiring Spice Telecom, IDEA Cellular signed an eight year contract with IBM, one of the leading IT companies in the world. Under the contract, IBM will provide IDEA Cellular various technical assistance to transform necessary applications and hardware of Spice Telecom. IBM would also manage all the IT operations and services of IDEA in Punjab and Karnataka.
  • In 2009, IDEA Cellular struck a partnership deal with World Wide Media Private Limited and the Times Group-BBC Worldwide joint venture to organize the 54th Bollywood Filmfare Award ceremony, the most prestigious award ceremony in the Indian film industry. IDEA Cellular launched a number Value Added Services for its mobile phone subscribers in India.
  • Abhishek Bachchan, son of legendary Bollywood actor, Amitabh Bachchan, and husband of former beauty queen, Aishwarya Rai is a brand ambassador for IDEA Cellular.

Useful Links:

IDEA Press Release

IDEA Press Release

Wikipedia-Idea Cellular

IDEA Cellular official website

(This entry was first published in February 2009. Because of a technical problem, the entry had to be deleted and I am reposting again now.)

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