[India] Cellular operators hear a rural beep

  • To: s-asia-it at apnic dot net
  • Subject: [India] Cellular operators hear a rural beep
  • From: "Irfan Khan" <KhanIA@super.net.pk>
  • Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 15:39:51 +0500
  • Sender: owner-s-asia-it@lists.apnic.net
    • Dec 21 2000 
      Cellular operators hear a rural beep
      Vivek Law 
      WHEN a village sarpanch wrote to one of India's cellular czars about 
      how his village was grateful for being connected  this village had 
      only one PCO and now there are 8 mobile phone PCOs  it was a wake up 
      call for the cell phone industry. 
      Operators across the country are seeing more than 50 per cent of all 
      incremental growth in cellular business coming from small towns and 
      rural areas. 
      And we are not talking about the now legendary mobile-toting rich 
      farmers atop tractors. The cellular has reached the man on the cycle, 
      the fisherman and the village sarpanch in not so prosperous villages 
      and towns. 
      Marketing strategies are therefore being reworked, tariff plans are 
      being redrawn and there is a sudden glint in the eyes of cellular 
      industry chieftains. So much so, that some operators say they do not 
      even need to explain in detail what a cellular phone is. The 
      villagers know it. It's just that we did not, they say. 
      "This just amazes me. From Gondia to Latur, everybody wants to be 
      impacted by technology. We receive letters from village sarpanch's on 
      how the mobile phone is being used effectively in villages where 
      there was a single PCO which too often never worked," says Rajeev 
      Chandrasekhar, chairman and chief executive officer of BPLs 
      Innovision group. 
      Some figures. "Out of 5,40,000 total subscribers, we now have close 
      to 2,00,000 subscribers in small markets across Maharashtra, Kerala 
      and Tamil Nadu. Out of 204 towns outside Mumbai that we are present 
      in, 160 are small towns and villages," says Chandrasekhar. 
      "The growth here is going to be far more, for unlike in the metros, 
      the roll out in state circles has been far slower. It's only now that 
      operators are rolling out networks across states. You can imagine the 
      growth potential," he adds. 
      Bharti's head of mobile operations across circles, Anil Nair has an 
      interesting story to tell. "Look at even Delhi. We have seen 
      carpenters and small time contractors on bicycles among our mobile 
      users. There was this carpenter we were trying to hire and he gave us 
      a cell number to get in touch with. More importantly, a small 
      contractor sees value as he can call someone for more material from 
      the site itself," says Nair. 
      He has figures to show as well. In Himachal Pradesh, more than 50 per 
      cent of the total 8,500 subscriber base is now from areas apart from 
      the two main towns, Shimla and Kullu-Manali. "It's a hit in orchards. 
      As it is easier to create more footprints by placing a base station 
      on the top of a hill," he said. 
      Connecting people. From country roads to city slickers, you bet.