Bharti's tip to cellcos: become a lifestyle company

Joseph Waring
18 Feb 2010

The telecom world is finally realizing that it needs to connect to the media world physically and that requires replacing telecom veterans with media talent.

“Earlier this was not seen as necessary,” said Bharti Airtel deputy CEO Sanjay Kapoor. “Be we realized that if we want to take this business forward, we needed people from the entertainment world to lead this business.”

The first thing Bharti did, he said, was to take out the telecom person and bring in a media person, who now heads the division.

“That is important because we don’t really understand that part of the world. Our presence now involves events in the media industry, which have become part of life going forward. We are there when it comes to music and film releases.”

He noted that consumers are not willing to pay a premium for music, video and downloads on their mobile if they are available on other mediums. Operators can charge up to a 25% premium if they can package content for mobile in a form acceptable to customer ahead of other mediums.

Kapoor, speaking at the Mobile World Congress yesterday, insisted that the one-size-fits-all model of the past doesn’t work anymore.

“Consumer segments are more diverse, and in the future we will see a move from geographically-defined communities to communities of shared values and interest, with customers creating their own content and applications.”

Bharti is working with the country’s largest fertilizer company, with 40,000 outlines, because it has access to half of the country’s 700 million rural population. It is delivering content about plants and animal husbandry via voice and text. Some 60% of new subs are coming from rural areas and he expects this to increase to 70% in a year.

He said the future success of telcos relies on operators trying to migrate from just taking a share of the telecom wallet to a share of the consumer wallet and transforming from telecom companies to lifestyle companies.

He cited a 2008 survey in India that showed that people would rather give up sex for two weeks than give up internet access of the same period of time.

“The mobile is quickly becoming the personal entertainment and information medium of choice for a wide segment of the market.”

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