The time is gone where Indian telcos tried through their telecom marketing messages to convince you as a consumer that their network reaches you wherever you are. It is to be taken for granted by the consumer that the network is present (although not always the case) as much as the air around you. That was when the puppy that followed you started doing much more than just track your tail. Telecom advertisements nowadays focus more on pitching higher end services to you like 3G, Value added Services, handsets bundles, or even financial transaction tools.
But marketing in telecom goes much beyond such centrally run advertisement pitches. Grassroot marketing spiels make much more impact and is very much analogous to the strategy in FMCG sector these days.
In this post I am trying to track the change in the way major Indian telecom operators talked to its customers over time.
To start with Airtel and Vodafone (erstwhile Hutch) were talking to the young generation who undoubtedly had more to talk and more people to talk to. But still this was a risky strategy as mobile phones were expensive propositions in the late nineties and early twenty hundreds and this segment was not exactly the one with the most change to spare after all the expenses of clothes, books and accessories. Then Reliance came with a strategy to make mobile phones within the means of a vast population by making the cost of a phone call lesser than that of an inland letter cover. This strategy helped acquire a lot of customers quickly although with less average revenues. They were the ones who changed mobile phones from an aspirational to an essential commodity.
The time has changed and making a phone call has become even more cheap with little price differentiation existing between services provided by different operators. But even today those early adopters form the backbone of the customer base for all the major telecom operators. Every operator worth its salt will try everything to retain a good customer who has stood loyal over time, as it’s much harder to acquire a new customer of the same mould than retaining him. The TATA Docomo spiel which says that they treat the old customer just as special as their new ones stands testimony. And not surprisingly it’s the same customer that the new entrants would try to pry away. Hence the customer is in a privileged position especially with MNP coming in which would make it much easier to shift networks.
The days of break neck acquisition numbers are gone. Especially a large incumbent operator now finds it much more difficult to increase their base in percentage terms as they used to. And acquisition led revenue growth would be more difficult to achieve. This is why the shift especially of the large established players to move away from the network quality and value for money pitch. Telecom operators are now trying to get its customers to spend more by providing more and more added service while the actual telephony calling would slowly move to being little more than a hygiene factor on a mobile phone.