With the UIDAI temporarily barring Bharti Airtel from conducting Aadhaar-based SIM verification of subscribers via e-KYC, the acquisition process of country’s largest telecom operator will slow down “substantially”. It will now take Bharti Airtel around 3-4 days to add a customer against the Aadhaar-based procedure where verification is completed within a couple of hours. As a result, Bharti which has been adding close to 2 million subscribers every month may see customer acquisition slowing in the current month or till the matter is resolved. FE spoke with officials from leading telecom operators involved in customer verification, who said with Bharti being suspended from using the e-KYC process, it will have to do a manual verification using the customer application form (CAF), which can take anywhere between 3-4 days to complete. “Aadhaar-based e-KYC verification taken less than an hour. With manually completing CAF, the process will take 3-4 days. This is going to hit it subscriber acquisition momentum substantially,” they added.
Barring August when it lost 0.2 million subscribers, Bharti’s performance has been commendable. The operator added 3.6 million in January followed by 1.2 million in February and 2.9 million each in March and April. In May, June and July, it added 2.1 million, 2.05 million and 0.6 million subscribers, respectively. Similarly, it added 1 million and 3.15 million subscribers in September and October, respectively. On December 16, UIDAI suspended the e-KYC licence key of Bharti Airtel and Airtel Payments Bank with immediate effect. The suspension was slapped on the operator following charges that it used the Aadhaar-eKYC based SIM verification process to open payments bank accounts of its subscribers without their consent. This led to subsidy of LPG customers getting deposited in Bharti’s payments bank account due to change in the NPCI mapper. Sources said that PwC has been roped in to verify whether the allegations against Bharti are true. The process could take around 15-20 days to complete.