Kishore Biyani owned Future Group is not launching an MVNO afterall – it has entered into a franchisee agreement with Tata Teleservices to launch Talk 24 (or T-24) soon with the tagline ‘Shop More, Talk More.

Tata Indicom already has a similar franchisee agreement with Virgin Mobile, which offers both GSM and CDMA connections as well as data modems.  Tata Teleservices also has a tie up with Japanese telco DoCoMo for joint venture Tata DoCoMo, another GSM operator. While Tata & Sons owns the Virgin Mobile brand in India and is paying an undisclosed royalty fee for it, the Tata Teleservices spokesperson said that the Talk-24 brand will be shared with the Future Group.

What will be new? Details are unavailable but it does sound unique:  the two groups have hit on a concept of exchanging shopping benefits and talk time. At the launch, Kishore Biyani, Chief Executive Officer of Future Group has said that customers will get shopping benefits for talking, and talk-time benefits each time they shop. Business Line calls it a loyalty program.

Just imagine the size and nature of this project – integrating two huge and widely differing databases and billing systems! The Tata Teleservices spokesperson told MediaNama that the two firms will jointly work on integrating the billing systems but nothing has begun as the company has only signed the agreement. Future Group gave the same answer: “We have just launched the brand today…more operational details will be shared after some days.” So it appears we will have to reign in our curiosity for now.

T-24 will be a GSM service and will begin roll out of its SIM cards shortly, starting with southern India; and plans to have a pan-India presence by the end of the year. Future Group will begin selling Tata Indicom GSM connections under the T-24 brand name at all its retail outlets – Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, eZone, FutureBazaar.com, Central malls, Food Bazaar, Fashion Station, Depot (books and music) and Shoe Factory. In all, there are over 1000 stores in 61 cities – so reaching subscribers will be easy. As we asked earlier, why is the Future group entering the telecom space right now? Are the sector’s hyper-competition, multi-SIMs and lowered ARPUs not sufficient to daunt new telcos? Apparently not.

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