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Reliance Infocomm to overhaul distribution
BS Bureaus in New Delhi/Mumbai/Kolkata |
March 14, 2003 12:22 IST
In an attempt to fill the gaps in its customer service, Reliance Infocomm is overhauling its distribution network by deploying multiple channels.
While dealers will still be appointed under the Dhirubhai Ambani Entrepreneurs programme, Reliance will also set up its own points of sale and approach local vendors.
"We are doing what we can to improve our customer service. Our phones are reaching customers much later than they are being booked. We will now offer phones over the counter.
"We are not tying up with any distributor for this -- we are doing it on our own by setting up Reliance Infocomm outlets," Akhil Gupta, chief corporate executive at Reliance Infocomm, told Business Standard.
"We are planning 20-30 dedicated points-of-sale, which will display handsets and offer connections. We also plan to expand our webstores from 50 to 200 by the end of March. This will increase our reach," a Reliance Infocomm spokesperson said.
Gupta said the company was pre-tuning the handsets according to the area of service.
"The handsets need to be tuned according to the area of operation. Earlier we did it after receiving confirmed orders, but now we are sending pre-tuned handsets to facilitate quicker delivery of connections," he said.
Industry sources, however, said the Reliance move to set up its own distribution network had come after a large number of dealers under the Dhirubhai Ambani Entrepreneurs programme demanded their security deposit back.
A Delhi-based dealer said they were having to face irate customers who had not got connections weeks after payment.
"Several customers wanted to give up their connections after they realised that the attractive tariffs promised by Reliance had a number of riders attached," the dealer said.
Industry sources also claim that the company has failed to meet its subscriber targets. At the launch of the company's services in the Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City, Reliance Infocomm chairman Mukesh Ambani had said the company was planning to add a million subscribers a month.
While the Reliance spokesperson declined to furnish subscription figures, he said the response of customers was good. "Applications are pouring in every day. If you come here now, you'll see 200 customers waiting outside," another Reliance Infocomm official said.
However, he added that the Dhirubhai Ambani Pioneer offer, scheduled to expire on March 31, would probably be extended for a few months in areas "where the response has not been very good".
Reliance Infocomm had also received complaints about handsets getting over-heated, a company official said, but these had been addressed.
Meanwhile, the dealers under the Dhirubhai Ambani Entrepreneurs plan are feeling let down by Reliance's move to set up its own marketing channel.
"The dealers are realising that they may not be the sole distributors of Reliance phones, which means they will not get the returns they were expecting when they took up the dealership," said a Delhi-based dealer. Each dealer was given a target of 100 connections.
However, with too many dealers serving an area, some run the risk of losing the deposit. "When we took the dealership, we were verbally assured that some sort of territorial integrity will be maintained. But this has not been the case," said a Kolkata-based dealer under the programme.
Recently, dealers in a district in Andhra Pradesh demanded the cancellation of the agency and wanted their security deposits.
Gupta, however, denied that there were any major problems with the Dhirubhai Ambani Entrepreneurs network, saying the dealers were still important. "They have a role to play in the Reliance scheme of things," he said.
Company officials pointed out that the problem did not exist across the board. A few dealers, unable to meet their targets, could not make up their investments, they said.