IIPM Admission

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


IIPM set to beat economic slowdown

Cheap services and small handsets fueled India’s telecom boom. The stakes are not about to change anytime soon

The latest buzz to have gripped the telecom world is the launch of Reliance Communications’ (RCOM) GSM service. In a bid to increase subscriber tally, RCOM is targeting people whose Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is less than Rs.300 per month, unlike the old ideology of chasing high-usage customers. With the second largest telecom operator making this move in the highly competitive telecom industry, it won’t be long before we see others treading a similar path. “RCOM’s GSM foray was expected to cause some disruption and their strategy to chase lower ARPU customers and giving away prepaid connections at virtually throwaway prices of Rs.25 each (along with free talktime worth Rs.900) are steps in that direction,” avers Prakash Gaba, an independent telecom analyst. But then arguably telcos had always taken pro-active steps to ensure getting even low-cost customers into their net. Vodafone’s chhota recharge was undoubtedly a step in that direction. Further, entry of new players like Unitech, Videocon, et al, would eventually make for still cheaper tariffs by at least 20-50%. Some say local calls would soon become as low as 10 paisa/minute!

“On VAS front too you find that micro-payments driven services are more popular and the trend is expected to only gain momentum,” explains another telecom analyst. Clearly, ringtones and caller tones will continue to be the most popular VAS after SMS. Also, analysts feel that the year would see a further reduction in SMS charges so as to ensure that the volume of SMSs do not fall in 2009.

A similar trend is also expected on the handset front. Though the low-end category in handsets have always been doing well, but of-late handset biggies had begun focusing profusely on the premium segment. The failure of Apple’s iPhone coupled with the slowdown induced fear instinct among consumers has made Nokia, Sony Ericcson, Samsung, et al, look afresh at the category. This year, they expect new customers in the mobile markets to be much higher than people opting for replacements. So, market leader Nokia has already announced the launch of Nokia 1200, very similar to their iconic Nokia 1100. To give more teeth to their entry level portfolio, the company has also launched handsets like Nokia 1208, Nokia 1209 and has plans for 1202, 2330 classic, 2323 classic... Even Samsung’s success (the company has now bagged the second spot in the handset market) is mainly attributable to the slew of entry level phones it launched last year. In 2009, this Korean handset maker is looking at expanding its base in the entry level handset market, positioning its sub-brand handset Guru300 as their star product.

The race to offer value-for-money, affordable handsets continues with Spice Mobile launching a people’s phone that costs only Rs.800 (minus a display screen & SMS sending services). But more popular perhaps would be Sony Ericsson’s R300 and R306, both AM/FM phones that are competitively priced. Clearly, slowdown or not, India’s telecom segment is going to be ruled by small ARPU’s, smaller recharges, cheap VAS and value-for-money handsets; while the phones themselves will get lighter, slimmer and yes, smaller on the pockets!

Surbhi Chawla

For more articles, Click on IIPM Article.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2009

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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