Mobile Number Portability in India

Game Changer: Mobile Number Portability

Mobile Number Portability (MNP): Starting from Sep' 09, MNP would be possible in a phased manner across India. That means, customers can change their mobile operators while retaining their number after paying a fee to designated agencies who would be managing the process of number portability. With that, the biggest barrier people had while changing connections is gone. The nightmare of changing mobile numbers was the biggest defense markets leaders like Airtel and Vodafone had against new players of the likes of Aircel, Reliance GSM and others. With the coming of MNP, the customer would be benefited because now an Airtel or a Vodafone would try harder to retain him and at the same time, he would have the option to shift to an Aircel if he finds their schemes attractive.

New Players: These would be looking at giving customer value propositions that make them shift from existing big players like Airtel and Vodafone. These would have to be innovative and compulsive enough so as to induce a large customer base to switch operators.

Contender No.1: Reliance GSM:
Reliance Communication has launched its pan India GSM services and has coincided the timing of the campaign months before MNP kicks in. They are using Hrithik Roshan as their brand ambassador. They are talking about human emotions, in the sense that when you want to express something, you do not wait, you "Go for it". By talking about human emotions and their expression, this campaign slightly resembles an Airtel campaign. The difference here is that while Airtel talks about mobile as a medium of expression of all kinds of emotions, Reliance goes to the next level by saying that don't wait to express yourself, you "Go for it" and do it right now.

Talking about baits for people to switch to Reliance GSM, they talk about trust, when they talk about their being India's No. 1 network, they talk about the new buzzword, 3G, when they talk about their being a 3G ready GSM technology and finally they talk about acceptability, by bringing in Hrithik Roshan as brand ambassador. The Reliance brand has been traditionally seen as a mass brand offering value for money. The acceptability of it amongst the classes was less. Very few of them would have switched their Airtel or Vodafone to go to a Reliance or a Tata Indicom, which faces the same problem. Now, with Reliance talking about 3G and with Hrithik endorsing the brand, the acceptability is bound to increase amongst the classes.

Contender No 2: Aircel: Aircel also choose to launch its pan India campaign in the same year that the MNP would kick in. Aircel indulges in what is called the "by pass" attack in marketing warfare. It did not talk about network, it did not talk about customer service, it did not talk about tariffs and price points. Nor did it talk about mobile as an expression of emotions (Airtel) or mobile as an instrument of social change( IDEA). It focused its campaign on value added services.

If you can not match a competitor on existing attributes of service held important by customers, you create new attributes( Reliance, being the first operator to talk about 3G) or you increase the importance of other attributes which till now were not the most important in the minds of customers( Aircel, with Value Added Services).

Aircel has changed the meaning of the term "value added" by making it the main theme of its offerings.

This is what the Chief Marketing Officer of Aircel says:

“Our marketing strategy aims to bring to the forefront the multi-functionality of the phone.”

Here is a print ad of their value added service, Pocket Internet, through which users can find useful information by the search feature of the service. The ad clearly explains what benefits people would get while using this service.

The second print ad talks about another feature of their "Pocket Internet" that enables you to access Facebook on your mobile. Notice again how the advertising talks about the benefits of using the service without attempting to establish an emotional connect like an Airtel or now Reliance GSM.

Aircel's innovation lies in branding a commodity. Everyone who uses internet on mobile knows that you just need a GPRS connection and a compatible phone to access Facebook or any search feature on the mobile. It is not a feature which is operator dependent.

Now, Aircel "brands" the commodity known till now as the "GPRS Connection" into "Pocket Internet" , adds some free games and dialer tones to it and calls the ability to browse through search engines and facebook as features of its "Pocket Internet". The strategy and the brilliance lies in creating a differentiation where none exists.

Aircel through its advertising is trying to create a brand image of a provider which provides features with high perceived and practical value which go much beyond voice and SMS. This is the "pull" which would make people to switch to Aircel from other operators once MNP kicks in.

The Defenders: Airtel and Vodafone

With the coming of mobile number portability, one of the most important defense which Airtel and Vodafone had against new players, which is the reluctance amongst people to change their mobile numbers is gone. What would market leaders do, when faced with the prospect of losing their new market share to new players who would be luring customers with exciting offers?

Here is what Airtel and Vodafone are doing....

  • Strengthening the brand: A strong brand is the best defense against competition and price wars. The Zoo Zoo campaign did wonders to the Vodafone brand.
  • Removing Causes of Customer Dissatisfaction: Something what Airtel is doing with the Start Stop service.
  • Focusing on providing more value to existing customers:This is the premise behind "My Airtel, My offer".

The Defender No 1: Airtel

The impeding Mobile Number Portability has resulted in Airtel focusing on existing customers. It has reason to do so, as being the biggest operator it might be the most affected by MNP.

It is focusing on providing more value to existing customers through "My Airtel My Offer" and also making their life easier through the "Start Stop" service.

The "My Airtel My Offer" service enables customers to know about various Airtel offers suited to individual requirements and specific needs, without receiving any calls or SMSs on their mobile phones. The offers that are made to existing customers are based on the customers' past usage, current recharge behavior, and VAS preferences.

Through "My Airtel, My Offer", Airtel moves to the next level in marketing and Customer Relationship Management by offering schemes customized to each individual. The advertising featuring Vidya Balan and Madhavan retains the human element and the core essence of the Airtel brand which stands for providing expression to feelings and emotions. The "Barriers Break" campaign had focussed on the brand as an expression of freedom. Notice how a brand retains its essence even if campaign objectives are different.

One of the key causes of customer dissatisfaction is that customers are not aware which all value added services they have been subscribed to and how to unsubscribe from these services. This problem if not addressed could lead to customers switching to other operators once MNP comes. Airtel is preparing itself for that by removing the cause of dissatisfaction. Through the Start Stop service, subscribers can easily find out which all services they are subscribed to and then they can easily unsubscribe from any of them, free of cost, through the same menu.

The "My Airtel, My offer" along with the "Start Stop" service would go a long way towards customer retention. Well, dislogding the leader wont be easy after all for the likes of Reliance GSM and Aircel.
The Defender No 2: Vodafone
The Zoo Zoo phenomenon has been unprecedented. The success of the campaign lies in taking brand engagement to a new level.
  • The Zoo Zoos have lent a certain halo to the brand. It has resulted in tremendous admiration of the brand in the eyes of the subscribers. The high quality off the campaign would rub off on the mobile services of Vodafone in terms of how the consumers perceive them.
  • The Zoo Zoos have also result in high likability and memorability to the brand.
Both the above points are great for a brand, if it is looking at customer loyalty and retention.

Finally, focus on Value Added Services in the Zoo Zoo campaign exposed current and potential subcribers of Vodafone to a wide variety of services which Vodafone offers from Voice SMS to Fashion Tips, to Dating Tips to Phonebook backups and many more. All reasons for people to stick to Vodafone. Am sure, it would be tough leaving a Vodafone connection right now!

Nett Nett...Telecom promises to be the sector to watch out for, with strong defenders and ready to fight challengers! May the Best Operator Win!!


jaydeepreddy said…
very well dissected the indian telecom market ...i think you forgot to mention about idea and how they are playing catch up with airtel and their (WHAT AN IDEA SIR JEE)campaign is simply oob......reddy
Sid Saxena said…
Focused on the the two biggest players and the two upcoming challengers...ya, u are right..idea has been very innovative in its advertising...the call Sachin/Mumbai Indians campaign and the whole "what an idea" series, showing how teh mobile acts as a instrument of change in politics, education and now health...with their new campaign...walk the talk...sure IDEA deserves a separate post!
Unknown said…
i also believe that this article has failed to mention tata docomo!!...the latest entrant in the GSM market..i do believe tata docomo is going to be a strong contender when MNP..what they have done succesfully is target the most of thier branding and plans/tarif are attractive tot the youth...they've got a great website whcih will no doubt attract lot of youngsters (they've got some great downloads, games, etc!)..
Sid Saxena said…
I have talked about the two biggest players in GSM (Airtel and Voda) and the two new players who are strong contenders( Aircel and Reliance GSM)...TATA-DoCoMo is presently no where...i am not aware if they have launched their campaign and further they are yet to roll out their services on a pan india level...

as for them having a "great website with great downloads", that by itself does not entitle them to become a strong contender...

what might in fact, is their innovative plan of 1 paisa pulse and their focus of location based and mobile payment services...
Unknown said…
true..what i mean is they have revolutionary plans (such as the 1sec pulse) but they are not stopping just at that ...they've done some great advertising and branding...which will no doubt appeal to the lakhs of new entrants who comeinto the market each yr in the form of college students!!...thats why it think tata docomo has got it spot on in every area
Sid Saxena said…
Even Virgin is doing great advertising targeted at the college crowd but where are the numbers?
the service has to be backed by strong distribution, excellent network and customer service...lets c where the likes of aircel n tata docomo fare on these...
Anonymous said…
finally MNP has come...
Anonymous said…
And is it possible to migrate from one circle to another ? say from hyderabad to madras?
Strategist said…
I am curious as to how this is going to change the Indian Telco market segment. 85% of Indian market segment is prepaid phone service.
Will MNP really have that much of an impact on carriers gaining market share ?
Sid Saxena said…
Number Portability would result in business users would have a keen interest in retaining their numbers, changing their operators because of dissatisfaction with the present one or a compelling offer from a different operator. these users are mostly postpaid and also have high ARPU, making them an extremely desired segment for telecom players.
Unknown said…
Mobile Number Portability is here in India .. very soon Visit - for some frequently asked questions
Unknown said…
Through Reliance Mobile Number Portability offers, you can change your Mobile operator without changing your Mobile number, by availing Mobile Number Portability services.
Vodafone Mnp said…
Vodafone MNP is a facility which allows you to move to vodaphone while retaining your existing operator’s mobile number. With MNP you are free to choose a new mobile service provider without having to change to a new number. So with MNP you don't have to notify your friends or family about your new operator when you move to Vodafone
prabhas said…

National Mobile Number Portability is now available on Videocon. Now no matter which city you move to, there's one thing that needn't change - your number!
Mobile Number Portability
prabhas said…
Switch to videocon and join largest network in India. Step by step MNP procedures help you to get videocon network with attractive plans for empowering your business. mobile number portability videocon
Just Port Your Number to VODAFONE & Get 10GB 4G internet Data @the price of 1GB
Call : 9867965857

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