Bharati Airtel is the only telecom company which is successfully facing the challenges of the telecom market against Reliance Jio. The two big names, Vodafone and Idea Cellular are in the process of merging their operations, Reliance Communications has decided to exit the market. Tata Teleservices has decided to merge its operations with Bharti Airtel.
Jio pushed the incumbent players on the backfoot when it acquired more than 100 mn subscribers in the first few months. It created a flutter by offering free voice for life and free data for the first six months of the launch and thus introducing many Indians to mobile broadband for the first time.
What’s the strategy of Airtel? How are they competing? This is because of the geographical and operational diversification along with its advantages of different networks have helped the telecom firm to earn revenue. In the fiscal year, the company earned revenue of more than 50% from the mobile market while African mobile operations contributed 21% in this year.
Clearly, consolidation is helping the company. Airtel has acquired a number of smaller telcos this year. Videocon, Telenor, Tata Teleservices (consumer wireless business) and Tikona are some of the smaller service providers acquired by the company. This is helping the company in procuring additional subscribers and spectrum, which is going to help it to fight competition and maintain its leadership position.
The company is investing in latest technologies to offer the best possible services to its subscribers and thus preventing churn. It started Project Next a few years back to upgrade and modernize its networks. Recently it started Project Leap to digitize its operations. At the same time, it can be said that the company might have been in a much better position if it had started this process a few years back and not when it was being pushed in a corner by competition.
Airtel is also trying to adopt global best practices. For instance, it has recently formed an alliance with South Korea’s SK Telecom, where SKT will help Airtel to enhance network experience and will also put it on the road to 5G. The company is also trying to take a lead in 5G and has recently started working with Ericsson and Nokia for the same.
Airtel is also trying to do away with legacy technologies. It recently indicated that it might close down 3G operations.
Airtel has earned revenues from other businesses which helped them to survive in this challenging market. Its geographical diversification is going to be key to maintaining growth in the tough market.
Here it needs to be said that the Airtel is trying to grow its profile at the global level. It started with Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises taking up the post of Chairman of GSMA. Airtel is also the only Indian member of Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project. The recent tie-up with SK Telecom can also be looked in the same way.
Along with its geographical expansion in all around the world, Airtel is enjoying a great partnership with the different content providers and offering a variety of services to the subscribers. Few big tie-ups with Airtel are ErosNow, Ditto TV, Amazon, and Netflix.
If the present scenario of the telecom market is concerned, diversification is the only factor which can help you compete. It has now become a need for the telecom companies. This is the best time to invest in content and technology because this can only work in this data-driven world.
Airtel is also the first pan India Company which assures some great advantages to them in the long run. Many users have adapted to this technology quickly. Furthermore, it has top quality subscribers.
Airtel also has a more efficient 900 MHZ frequency band. Unfortunately, the other two big names like Vodafone and Idea had to opt for 1800 MHZ, which is not efficient at all. It is not the right choice as a network resource. It also has excellent backhaul connectivity in the country.
While the company is putting up a good fight against Jio to maintain its leadership position in the Indian market, it also needs to be said that Airtel needs to foster innovation at all levels in the organization. In the last one year, Jio has launched a number of innovative products in the market, including Aadhar-based onboarding of customers, free voice for life and JioPhone, a 4G feature phone. Jio is also working with a number of startups to come up with innovative products in the telecom sphere.
Airtel has come up with carry-forward data and voice but the company needs to come up with more innovative offerings if it wants to go from defensive to offensive position.