Common telephone directory remains an issue to be resolved

By Venkatachari Jagannathan | 24 Feb 2003


Chennai: In the era of multiple basic telecom service providers in each city, locating a number is becoming a problem free of cost. Telephone users are feeling the need for a comprehensive directory, listing out all the phone numbers in a city. However, service providers are not rising up to provide a user-friendly directory interconnection solution.

Though the telecom sector was opened up for private competition some years ago, only the public sector companies — Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) in Delhi and Mumbai, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) in other cities — bring out directories regularly.

Two months back, Bharti, the private service provider in Delhi, brought out its own telephone directory. But the company has to do more than that. The group company and the service provider in Chennai, Bharti Telenet’s website ( still sports the company’s seven-digit old number as the number to be contacted for new connections and service complaints.

Be that as it may, the issue of how a subscriber of one network would locate the number of another, using a different service provider without incurring any costs, is still a mystery.

According to industry sources, telephone service providers — private and government MTNL/BSNL — are breaking their heads to find a solution. The Rs 60-crore turnover GETIT Infomediary, a pioneer in publishing telephone directories, is also talking with all the basic telephone service providers.

The company years ago pioneered the concept of clubbing yellow pages with white pages telephone directory. The clubbing enabled BSNL to get the directory free of cost while GETIT recovered its costs from yellow page advertisers. The company prints BSNL telephone directories for 11 cities and a sister company prints MTNL’s Delhi and Mumbai directories.

“It costs us a minimum of Rs 300 to print three volumes of Chennai Telephones directory. The business model of clubbing white and yellow pages and meeting the costs is not feasible to bring out a comprehensive directory for a city,” says GETIT chief operating officer Sidharth Gupta.

Though sharing the printing costs is one of the issues in bringing out a comprehensive book, the big hurdle is that service providers view the telephone directory as a publicity tool detailing various services offered by them.

Gupta says it is not a big problem to surmount. Directories could be customised as per each service provider’s requirement, and the only common listing in it will be the subscriber details.

Some find BSNL a better choice mainly on account of the directory facility; other services being more or less similar. Besides, BSNL and MTNL have the maximum subscribers facilitating easy access. Takers any?

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