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By SHELLEY SINGH

NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel has partnered with Hewlett-Packard to offer cloud-based e-mail, accounting packages, business software and storage services to small and mid-sized businesses, a move to increase revenue from data services when voice-based income has been declining.

For HP, the five-year deal will mean that it gains market access for its cloud computing technologies without having to spend on marketing to SMBs who form part of Bharti Airtel's customer base.

"We have come the CIO (Chief Information Officer) in the cloud for SMBs," said Amrita Gangotra, director of IT at Bharti Airtel.

The telecom company has 30,000 SMB customers for internet and mobile services and now it will be able to expand that portfolio of services to include accountingsoftware, storage, business software (like pay roll) or even additional computing resources.

"We are starting with basic services and will expand to more specialised offerings like healthcare and education applications on the cloud, later," Gangotra said. The two companies declined to share the value of the contract or the revenue implications. Bharti now earns 12% of its revenue from SMBs.

The partnership comes at a time when voice revenues and margins are falling (in low single digits) and telecom firms are looking at new revenue streams. HP has a similar tie-up in the US with Verizon and others.

While HP implements and manages the cloud infrastructure (data centres, storage software and hardware and ensure scalability, security), Bharti Airtel will use its market reach to win customers. Towards this end, Bharti Airtel has hired a cloud expert from Wipro Technologies.

The Cloud Enablement Platform, as Bharti Airtel has termed it, will be hosted in India by HP. It will offer cloud-based applications on a pay-as-you-go model and meets telecom regulator Trai's norms on hosting data locally, the two companies said.

Biswajeet Mahapatra, research director at Gartner India, described the deal as a "win-win" for both, observing that companies such as Etisalat in Dubai and China Telecom in China are looking at such partnerships to drive data revenues.

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