Mobile Phone has become one of the most common gadgets we now use in our daily lives. In South Asia, India is the largest mobile phone market. Already there are several domestic and foreign mobile operators. In this article series, I am going to cover some of the top mobile phone operators in India.
Tata Group is one of the leading business conglomerates in India and telecommunication is one of the heavily invested areas of the group. Tata’s telecommunication business is covered by four companies: Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL) aka Tata Indicom and its associate, Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Limited (TTML), Tata Communication, formerly known as Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, and Tata Sky. TTSL is the leader in fixed wireless telephony market with a total subscriber base of 3.8 million. According to the data of fiscal year 2006, TTSL has an investment capital of $7.5 billion.
Tata started its foray into the telecom sector in 1996. In December 2002, Tata Teleservices acquired Hughes Telecom (India) Limited and renamed it to Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Limited (TTML). The company aggressively expanded its network around India. Initially, it invested Rs. 199.24 billion. Tata Indicom operates in more than 5000 towns divided in twenty circles all over India. These circles are: Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Gujarat, J & K, Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra, Mumbai, North East, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (E), Uttar Pradesh (W), Kerala, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. In these areas, TTSL and TTML jointly have a customer base of 28 million and it is still expanding its areas inside the country.
Tata Teleservices was the first Indian company to introduce CDMA 3G1x technology mobile network in India. It built this state-of-the-art CDMA network in partnership with Motorola, Ericsson and Lucent. Tata Indicom received license from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to launch GSM services in early 2009. Tata has 12,500 towers around the country. Out of them, 10,000 belongs to TTSL and the rest to TTML.
TTSL offers a wide range of high quality user friendly services. They are:
Wireless Desktop Phones
Public Booth Telephony and Wireline services
Post-paid Internet services
Calling card services
At present, TTSL has the largest retail presence in India operating through more than 3000 retail outlets all over the country. Out of these, 600 outlets are owned by TTSL and the rest are in franchise format. With its Tata Indicom Exclusive Stores, Tata covers the top 700 towns in India.
Franchise with Virgin mobile:
In order to attract the young generation, in March 2008, Tata Indicom and Virgin Mobile, a UK based youth oriented mobile phone company, started Virgin mobile. Initially, Virgin Mobile wanted to act as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator but Indian Telecom authority did not give out the MVNO license. Under MVNO system, a mobile company buys up necessary space from an existing wireless company and resells under their own brand. This system is not present in India. As a result, Virgin and Tata signed a franchise deal under which Virgin Mobile will be owned by Tata Teleservices. Under the later agreement, Virgin Mobile will release its mobile phones through Tata Indicom. It will also use Tata Indicom’s telecom network to offer its services. The revenue will be split 50:50.
Virgin Mobile phone service is targeted toward young people between 14 and 25 years of age. Virgin Mobile is a UK-based mobile company founded by Richard Branson. Initially, the service was offered in fifty Indian cities. By December 2008, the officials targeted to spread the service in 1000 cities. In the initial stage, Virgin mobile targeted million base subscribers and generate revenue in the next three years. The company offered mobile handsets ranging from $50 to $125.
In March 2008, Tata Indicom subscriber base reached a hopping 24.3 million in the wireless category and its over all subscriber base was more than 25 million.
TTSL maintained a compound annual growth rate of 113% in the wireless segment.
In Delhi NCR region, TTSL gained the second slot removing Vodafone with a subscriber base of 3 million.
In November 2008, Tata Teleservices sold out 26% of its stake to Japanese telecom giant NTT DOCOMO for $2.7 billion.
TTSL pioneered the VAS (Value Added Services) in India.
Some of the major Bollywood stars endorsing Tata Indicom are: Kajol, Trisha, Irfan Pathan, Pooja Ruparel and Saurav Ganguly.
Tata Indicom’s Freedom Call Voucher television commercial was highly appreciated. The TV commercial stars Pooja Ruparel and Kajol. Pooja Ruparel sits in the locker-room holding a stop watch on one hand and talking to her friend over the phone non stop. She was worried about talk time. Then, Kajol enters and gives her Tata Indicom’s freedom call offer which ensures free unlimited talk time.
In 2007, Synovate, a leading market research firm, conducted a survey which revealed that Tata Indicom was voted number one by Television viewers in major Indian metropolitan areas in September.
Tata also gives services in remote villages in India at a very low cost. There are mobile vans that go to different villages and operates as customer touch points. Trained TTSL officials visit different villages on particular days of a week selling recharge vouchers and service equipments. Each person covers 200-300 people.
In 2007, Tata Indicom launched an online portal named ichoose. Through these web-portals, users of Tata phones and interested people can buy phones and recharge their phones online.
In October 2007, Tata Zone, an infotainment service for Hindi speaking Indians. There are various applications such as Cricket, Faith and Prayers, Bollywood and Hollywood movies, News, Astrology, Funzone, and Games. Users can also download ringtones and wallpapers.
In March 2008, Tata Indicom launched a free-of-cost i-Help Emergency service. Available to all the pre-paid and post-paid phone users of TTSL, i-Help enables the user to connect with his/her family anytime. Under this facility, users would have access to three local numbers. In case of emergency, s/he would dial *44 and Tata will send SMS to his close ones.