Pooja Naik, Business Lead –CEM, Idea Cellular Ltd.
The story of Indian telecom is an interesting read. The introduction of mobile services was instrumental in triggering the juggernaut which led to the rapid uptake of telecom services within the country. The Unified Access Service License (UASL) era saw the rapid growth of subscribers and decline in revenue realization per minute (below one rupee). While, 2009-10 witnessed intense competition; the year 2012, came as a dark period for Indian telecom when 122 of the 2G licenses were revoked. This finally led to reduction in competition and consolidation followed suite. The telcos have demonstrated a spirited play within the market. The industry witnessed the launch of operator-led innovative products; as they also showcased their agility and commitment to the regulatory introductions.
Telco 3.0 and Customer 2.0
The key facet in this spectacular journey which saw India emerge as the second largest telecom market across the globe, has been the transition of telecom operators and their customers. In the pre-1998 era, the demand far outweighed the supply. The accessibility and affordability of telecom products was a roadblock. The launch of affordable mobile services turned the tables, and consumer perception completely changed. The key prerogative of the operator (Telco 1.0)
in the period leading up to the UASL era was accessibility to the masses; while in the period leading to NTP-2012 it was about affordable services (Telcos 2.0).
The customer story has been a bit staggered because of demand–supply gaps (Customer 1.0). Post the lull period (2012); the telcos (Telco 3.0) reinvigorated the sector with infusion of fresh CapEx to updgrade their network, buy (or buy-back) spectrum and introduced enhanced products and services. While, the basic product was already in the offering, the need of the hour was to provide more value-added services to the end-customers (Customer 2.0).
Over the period, telcos have truly transitioned themselves from the Age of Products to the Age of Customers. Much of the decisions (or directions), today, are undertaken considering the end-customers. This means a power shift where demand is driving not just the supply but also what comes along with it (the value adds).
The Future Outlook
The opportunistic view in this telecom growth story is that the telcos have the edge when it comes to innovation and delivery of market expectations. Today much of the investments are happening to continue the maturity and relevance of the telcos (Telco 3.0) to the end-customer (Customer 2.0).
Customer experience is paramount. Deployment of Analytical tools (bigdata, customer experience management platforms, digital, social analytics), digital properties (self-care and online channels of engagement), and online marketplace are as critical as foray into high-speed broadband-grade network. These initiatives are driving telcos to move closer to the customers and also provide data-driven insights about their usage and behavior. The survey-based feedbacks are becoming a thing of the past. This is because they always timestamp the customer disposition and do not always accurately measure their perceptions about the brand. To assimilate the customer experience in real-time using network, service, usage, or transaction-based information is what gives a holistic and fullfilling picture about customers.
The human-level engagement with the end-user is becoming minimalistic; as customers demand a nonintrusive do-it-myself kind of service (similar to the online ticketing that has taken precedence over over-the-counter sales). Customers have undergone a transformation as they are more cognitive about current trends and at pace with global developments. The uptake of social media is another example of the customer-side success story. Facebook today has more users in India than in any part of the globe.
In the age of the customers, for the telcos to be relevant, they need to continuously re-think their customer strategy and stay ahead of the curve. The future is interesting. The products would be personalized based on individual's behavior or usage and telcos would reach out to the customers to inform them about the experience, and it may not be the other way round.