Update (Nikhil adds): It’s a bit complicated. While there were reports of the launch of these SIM cards yesterday, and corroborated by BSNL via a tweet sharing the report, BSNL followed up with further information that this is only a special deal that is being offered to the members of Patanjali, and not for the public at large. However, they also added that members of the public can subscribe to Patanjali’s Swadeshi Sammridhi card, which is a loyalty card, and get the special offer from BSNL. Thus it appears that Patanjali has not launched SIM cards, but procured a special deal for its loyalty card members. BSNL, though, could do better with its communications.
— BSNL India (@BSNLCorporate) May 30, 2018
Note that the SIM card partnerships do happen, and have happened in the retail space: Future retail offers talk-time via t24 SIM cards to its customers, in partnership with Tata Teleservices, as a part of a franchise deal. Virgin Mobile was also launched in India as a part of a franchise deal with Tata Teleservices. Again, it would be possible for Patanjali to launch an MVNO as well, merely using a telecom operators network. So far, it’s just a special plan for Patanjali loyalty card owners.
Thus, our report from yesterday, which is below, stands corrected
Yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali has tied up with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to offer ‘swadeshi’ SIM cards (apparently the tiny bit of plastic in your phone is not Indian enough). With its partnership with BSNL, Patanjali is offering SIM cards called ‘Swadeshi Samriddhi’. Subscribers who get hold of this SIM will be offered three prepaid plans priced at Rs. 144 (30 days), Rs. 792 (180 days) and Rs. 1,584 (365 days). All the plans offer unlimited voice calls and 2GB data per day. So far the SIMs only offer prepaid plans, tough luck if you are a postpaid user you aren’t swadeshi enough yet.
The SIM cards will be available only to Patanjali employees at first, but the availability of the SIM and its service will be expanded to the general public later. All Swadeshi Samriddhi SIM users will get 10% discount on Patanjali products, health, accidental and life insurances, and more benefits. So like most Amazon devices and services, the Swadeshi SIM seems to be designed as a trojan product to sell more Patanjali goods.
Ramdev’s tactic of pitting his ‘swadeshi’ products against the ‘big bad’ foreign competitors is at play here as well. Speaking on the occasion, Ramdev said government-owned BSNL is a ‘Swadeshi network’ and the motive of both Patanjali and BSNL is the welfare of the country. What is baffling is the fact that Airtel and Reliance Jio are among the two largest telecom providers in the country, and both are Indian.
Patanjali’s e-commerce push
Earlier this year, Patanjali Ayurved had announced the expansion of its e-commerce operations. The Haridwar-based FMCG brand entered into agreements with Amazon, Flipkart, ShopClues, Paytm Mall, 1MG, NetMed, Bigbasket and Grofers to sell its products on their platforms. The fact that all the platforms are either foreign-owned or have major foreign investment didn’t seem to have affected the decision, despite Patanjali’s frequent portrayal of itself as a ‘Swadeshi’ brand.
Patanjali Ayurved had then said in a statement that its own e-commerce platform patanjaliayurved.net “yielded good dividend and response at trial stage itself” with online sales crossing the ₹10 crore mark in December. The company says its latest push aims to take its products from “Haridwar to Har Dwar” (from Haridwar to every doorstep).
Updates: Added updates from BSNL, and corrected the record that these are not SIM cards but special plans offered to Patanjali loyalty card owners.