Sarin steps down as Vodafone chief, says India key to growth

Tuesday, 29 July 2008, 07:00 Hrs
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London: Arun Sarin stepped down as chief executive of the mobile service provider Vodafone Tuesday saying his strategy to invest in India remained key to offsetting recent losses in Europe.

"We feel positive about our business. I expect Europe to remain challenging but emerging markets to continue growing," Sarin told the annual general meeting of Vodafone shareholders before stepping down.

Sarin's last AGM as chief executive was dominated by repeated references to India both from the floor as well as the Vodafone management.

Sarin told investors Vodafone Essar, in which the British company has a 67 percent controlling interest - bought for 5.5 billion pounds in February last year - "is growing very rapidly".

"We are investing a lot of money to build the business. Our revenues are growing 50 percent a year... You can look forward to receiving big cash flow dividend in the coming years," Sarin said.

He said the Indian mobile phone market was growing at a rate of about 50 percent year-on-year.

He commended his strategy of "continued exposure to GDP growth in emerging markets like India", which in turn was backed by his successor Vittorio Colao and Vodafone chairman John Bond.

"Sarin gave a superb performance and led the charge to India, which was a hugely significant move for this company and I believe the best days of India clearly lie ahead," said Bond.

"India will continue to grow very excitingly in the years ahead and also become a source for talent for Vodafone," Bond said, adding he hoped to see more Indian professionals to be in "key positions" in Vodafone.

Several shareholders at the AGM praised Sarin's India move - one said the Vodafone logo could be seen "from coast to coast" in India, while another told Bond: "Thanks to Sarin, you've got a goldmine for 5.5 billion pounds."

A Vodafone spokesman told that there were no special farewells planned for Sarin.

"There was an event at the headquarters last Friday. We had a couple of drinks and he said a few words…. It wasn't a shindig or anything," he said.

At the AGM, Sarin assured a number of worried Indian-origin investors that the decision to step down was entirely his own, and that he wasn't pushed.

"The things that I came to do, I've done," he said. "I came from California. There's a desire on my part to go back to California. That's all it's about.

"I have done my bit. It's now time for someone else to take this company forward. It was my decision. I went to John (Bond) six, eight months ago.

"I want to spend some time with my family. And do something else. You're right, I am only 53 and there are many things in one's life you want to do other than be the chief executive of Vodafone."
Source: IANS
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