3Gs potential will be realised after access to Rs 2,500-3,000 handsets: Anupam vasudev, Aircel CMO

Written by Rhik Kundu | Updated: Sep 4 2014, 06:56am hrs
Pan-India mobile operator Aircel plans to increase market share in key circles by adding more youngsters, migrant workers and data customers to its network. Apart from 2G and 3G, the company also has broadband wireless access (4G) spectrum in eight circles, which it won in the 2010 auctions. Chief marketing officer Anupam vasudev, in an interview with Rhik Kundu, outlines his plans. Excerpts:

You recently rolled out 4G on dongles. When do you plan to start it on the mobile platform

Our current focus is on enterprise and the home broadband sphere. At present, the 4G ecosystem is not very well developed for us to go after the mobility business. Also, broadband speed and availability are restricted to certain markets, which presents us an opportunity to deliver. As for 4G on mobility sphere, we are in the testing phase. We will be able to tell more only after a year.

Reliance Jio is expected to launch competitive 4G services this fiscal. How are you gearing up for the competition

We will have to see how it goes. 4G is relevant for their strategy as they don't have 2G. So, RJio's strategy will be totally different from every other players. We have 2G, 3G and 4G, which is an advantage. We will use all of these to compete with them.

When do you see 3G reaching its full potential in India

It's been 3-5 years since the 3G launch, but most operators' networks are running at half the capacity. In the mobility space, even 3G is under-penetrated at the moment. But the push is happening slowly, with phones getting cheaper.

Once consumers get access to handsets worth Rs 2,500-3,000 that support 3G, its potential will be truly realised. This is 2-3 years away. Though 2G will remain the dominant force, the revenue pie will shift to 3G. 2G customers, who will fundamentally be the lower ARPU ones, will be consuming more voice and a little bit of data. 3G customers give us five times ARPU on data today. They will consume that much more.

Over-the-top players, such as Facebook and Whatsapp, have hit sms services of telcos. How do you plan to counter the threat

OTTs are a necessary part of our expansion. If they were not there, data consumption would be much lower than present levels. Yes, they are taking away some revenue, but the consumption of data is up with explosion of content sharing and communication online. Sms revenue for most operators, including us, is 2-3%. The surge in data more than offsets it.

How is Aircel planning to expand its operations

Though we are present in all 23 circles, our focus of attention lies in 18 circles. Our focus is different for 900 MHz circles and 1800 MHz circles. In 900 MHz, we have over 20% market share in circles like Tamil Nadu, North East India and Assam. In other cirlces, our share ranges from 2% to 12%. States like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are currently our laggard markets while in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh (East), Delhi and Rajasthan we are hitting 5-10% share. We believe we need to hit 5-10% even in our laggard markets. Anything less than that, and we will end up as a marginal player.

Do you have any specific strategy to boost market share and increase revenue in existing markets

The only way to grow is by getting more customers in these markets. There are three kinds of customers we plan to acquire: youth, migrants and data customers. In markets like TN, Northeast, J&K and Assam, where we are established, we are looking to enhance rural presence. We will also look to up revenues in urban markets by driving data consumption.

The urban markets we will be targeting are W Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka, Hyderabad and Bangalore. For this, we have changed the way we sell data. We market data with content.

For instance, we have rolled out free 3G data services and free music between 6 am and 9 am. As a result, we have seen 30-40% growth in 3G traffic in the last 2-3 months.We are not a telco with a network as widespread as Vodafone or Airtel in many markets. So, our overall strategy is more urban- and small town-driven.