RComm bullish on rural revenues

Written by fe Bureaus | Mumbai | Updated: Aug 26 2009, 08:44am hrs
Reliance Communications (RComm) is targeting 5-15% revenue growth via its rural operations. Its competitors Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular are also betting big on the rural markets. It will be a gradual process and it is difficult to give a timeline, was the caveat of SP Shukla, president, wireless, RComm.

With almost 70% of Indias population living in small towns and villages (with just 12% mobile penetration within this population), it is logical to assume that rural India will be the next big growth market.

RComm on Tuesday announced initiatives for the rural market. "The Indian telecom wireless rural subscriber base is now over 125 million. With its rural base expected to double in the next few years, RComm is committed to drive this exponential growth through innovative and ground-breaking service offerings and tariffs, added Shukla.

For this, the company has a three-fold strategy. RComm has formed a joint venture with Krishak Bharti Cooperative Ltd (Kribhco) for offering value-added services to mobile users in villages.

The joint venture, called Kribhco Reliance Kisan Ltd, will disseminate useful information to Kribhco and RComm customers. The company launched BharatNet plan, the high-speed wireless internet service in over 20,000 rural locations. This will be a high-speed variant of its Reliance NetConnect service, offering speeds of approximately 153 kbps, which is four to eight times the current dial-up speed of the wire-line services.

BharatNet internet access will be available to rural subscribers (excluding metros and top 100 cities) for Rs 98 per week, with downloads up to 350 MB.

RComms second initiative is Grameen value-added services that will cater to specific needs of rural mobile consumers in over 5,00,000 Indian villages. Grameen VAS would cover mandi prices, agriculture and animal husbandry updates, weather forecast, local information and news, all in multiple Indian languages. To increase adoption, Grameen VAS is priced at Rs 15 per month.

Another thrust area will be high impact machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. These are mobile applications that aid automation, surveillance, remote monitoring and data gathering.