So what if MVNO’s aren’t yet allowed in India: Tata Teleservices has announced the launch of T24 Mobile with Kishore Biyani promoted retail giant Future Group; Tata’s third partnership in the telecom space, following Tata Docomo (via investment) and Virgin Mobile (franchise agreement). With Mayur Toshniwal (in pic below)at the help, T24 is a GSM based service which offers a loyalty program for the telecom business – ‘Shop More, Talk More’ and ‘Talk More, Shop More’. The service has currently been launched in Andhra Pradesh, and will be rolled out across Future Group’s retail networks in over 75 cities and 65 rural destinations, which it claims attracted over 200 million customer footfalls in 2009.
All in all, the two partners that Tata already has, have contributed to its overall connection base of around 70 million connections, along with its own brand Tata Indicom on CDMA. But this T24 launch is by far the most interesting telecom launch yet, because it brings to customers a unique value proposition of loyalty benefits – one usually provided by credit cards or air miles – with the immediate gratification of mobile talktime, unlike in case of most loyalty programs where one collects points forever, and picks out gifts. From what I’m told by some execs in the mobile Industry, transfer of talktime has been used as a form of currency anyway, with the lack of a sizable mobile payments ecosystem in India.
The Loyalty Program: How does it work?
The pitch – “Forget Prepaid, Forget Postpaid, Get India’s First Unpaid connection now”
T24 is currently offering its customers per second rates for prepaid services on Tata Teleservices’ GSM network, with free talk-time for every purchase above Rs. 500 at Future Group shopping outlets.
As a launch offer, they’re also giving consumers a connection at Rs. 21, instead of Rs. 49, and 30% extra talktime on recharges. Note that free talktime needs to be consumed within 90 days of recharge, and there’s a validity period for the recharge as well.
Every time a customer shops at any of the Future Group stores, they will be given a promo slip at the bill counter, with free airtime printed on it. They need to go to the free Recharge Desk in the store & hand over the promo slip to the T24 Mobile executive for loading the free airtime on the SIM. In terms of paid talktime recharge – that can be done electronically at Tata Teleservices retail outlets, though only electronic recharges are allowed.
For Tata Teleservices, there’s benefit in terms of the additional customers it brings on board, as well as increased minutes of use on its network. Future Group retail chains like Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Central, Brand Factory, EZone, Home Town and Aadhar, among others, will offer customers the T24 plans, coupled with benefits of rewards and special deals. But signing up isn’t as easy as paying the bill – customers still need to carry a valid ID proof, address proof not older than 3 months & one passport size color photograph. When was the last time you went shopping (not for a mobile connection) with all of that with you?
Implications & Questions
Expect an increase in multiple SIM usage, with consumers also taking T24 connections, along with their existing connections. This would end up creating a larger market for Dual SIM phones in India. Remember that Nokia has only just announced its first Dual SIM phone.
Also, this might set the scene for other telecom operators to consider loyalty partnerships, the way Credit Card companies have – a special SIM card for frequent flyers, tie-ups with hotels, fuel companies. If only it wasn’t tedious to change a SIM card, we’d probably have people with 4-5 of them.
Like I’ve said in the past – there is room for an MVNO that works as a concierge service for premium brands and locations – why can’t a partnership or franchise agreement do the same?
Also, a question for VAS companies – is talktime the only telecom currency that T24 can offer to customers? Why not wallpapers, ringtones, 1 day of mobile video streaming?