Airtel and IFFCO have formed a JV called IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) to provider mobile services in villages specially designed for farmers and as per press release by Airtel:
“On offer will be affordable mobile handsets bundled with Airtel mobile connection. The farmer will also get access to a unique VAS platform that will broadcast 5 free voice messages on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecasts, dairy farming, animal husbandry, rural health initiatives and fertiliser availability etc. on a daily basis. In addition, the farmer will be able to call a dedicated helpline, manned by experts from various fields, to get answers to their specific queries.
Bharti Airtel will offer competitive calling rates @ 50 paise/minute for calls between IFFCO members.”
The Economic Times further reports that: “The JV will bring several hand-cranked products of common use. These include transistors, community radios and torches.” It also goes on to say that farmers will be able to charge their mobile phones without power by using some wind-up charger, which I think is really interesting.
I personally welcome this initiative as its a good example of technology working at the grass-root level, however talking about farmers in India also reminds me of very serious issue of farmers’ suicide and I just hope that something could be done to improve this grim situation.
Virgin Mobile was launched a few days back in India in traditional Virgin (read Path-breaking) style. Timing couldn’t have been better for me as I just finished reading his autobiograpy.
Richard Branson came flying down a Hotel to launch the Virgin Mobile logo. Virgin Mobile is a youth targetted mobile service and is available on CDMA networks of Tata Teleservices which operates its Mobile services called Tata Indiacom.
Mr. Branson talked about briging 10 firsts to Indian telecom market, the most interesting in my opinion is their offer to give 10 paise per minute to their users for every incoming call.
The launch was followed by daringly different TV commercials. I am personally very excited by Virgin’s entry in Indian telecom space even if they don’t own a network here. I hope they will bring in lot of excitement and set benchmarks in customer services as they have done everywhere they have gone. However I am not sure if they can achieve this with Tata Indicom running support operations for Virgin. Tata Indicom’s customer service has generally been very poor like most other telecom operators in India.
Tata and Virgin are not in complete sync was also evident from statements from both the sides during the launch. Richard Branson said “At Virgin Mobile we believe that the existing operators are all pursuing the same strategy: to get as many subscribers as quickly as possible. We want to deliver a more tailored, more relevant offering for a single, distinct segment,”
and in the save event Anil Sardana, managing director, Tata Teleservices, said, “This association would support our efforts to be the fastest growing mobile network in India.”
I guess that means while Branson wants to not pursue strategy of just getting a lot of subscribers quickly, Tata’s are just concentrating on a lot of subscribers as their primary mission.
Well good luck to Virgin and I hope some of Virgin culture and craziness will rub off to Tata Indicom as well in due course. I am too sad that I won’t be able to have a first hand experience of Virgin service myself as I don’t want to change my number and I am on GSM as of now. May be Richard Branson should put his wait behind in ushering in the Number Portability regime in India so that users from other networks can choose Virgin if they want to.
A personal note to Richard if he ever reads it: I always admired you and after reading your Autobiography I am in awe of you and will probably even risk a balloon flight to meet you 🙂