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Airtel bundles phone number masking, bulk SMS, etc. for enterprises

Airtel has launched Airtel IQ, a cloud communications suite for enterprises. It bundles voice, SMS, email, interactive voice response (IVR) and phone number masking (which masks customers’ and merchants’ numbers from each other) together. Airtel has been in beta stage for six months with companies like Justdial, Havells, Dr Lal PathLabs, Urban Company and Swiggy, the company said during the press conference.

None of these services are groundbreaking as they are already available for businesses from telecom operators directly or through platforms leasing telecom networks. “[Airtel IQ] is adjacent to our telecom infrastructure. Most of the other solutions [from third party providers] have been built on top of it. Bringing [these services] inside the telecom infrastructure helps customers on the reliability side,” Ajay Chitkara, Director and CEO of Airtel Business, said in response to our question about this. “While in theory there are solutions [for IVR, SMS, calls, etc.], they are fragmented, and businesses are still hurting,” the company’s Chief Product Officer Adarsh Nair added.

Airtel didn’t indicate what the pricing would look like for Airtel IQ in its announcement. In response to our query, the company said that businesses would pay as they go, and not have fixed pricing. Airtel IQ’s announcement came a day before Airtel announces its earnings for the quarter.

Cloud communications companies, in addition to cloud companies, have been resisting the prospect of being regulated by the Department of Telecommunications. Such companies often provide the kinds of services that Airtel has announced but rely on telcos’ infrastructure to do so. Cloud companies have largely argued that they are customers of telecom operators like Airtel, and not telecom businesses in their own right that should be regulated by the DoT. While Airtel in particular (which may now be competing against some of its own customers in this segment) did not respond to that consultation, the Cellular Operators Association of India has supported cloud companies’ stand.

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