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Aircel COO on how to compete in a congested market

March 19, 2009 15:39 IST

GSM operator Aircel on Wednesday became the seventh telecom operator in Delhi. Gurdeep Singh, chief operating officer, spoke to Business Standard's Ishita Russell on the company's plan to tackle competition in a congested market.

Delhi is almost saturated. How do you plan to challenge the existing operators?

The fact that the market is 100 per cent saturated means you cannot do more of the same. Also, the 100 per cent saturation figures are according to the number of SIM cards sold. If you look at the unique users, it will be in the range of 65-70 per cent.

So, there is room for growth. We will fish in the incremental users market, the new subscribers. The churn rate too is about 3 per cent a month. Also, if number portability becomes reality, it will certainly help us.

India is a very price-sensitive market. With a rival operator recently entering the market with very competitive tariffs, how will you tackle it?

We have launched in all the markets where all these changes have happened. So, trust me, the love and respect we got from retailers and customers is heartening. I think people are certainly looking for refreshment, beyond tariffs.

Even youth look for offerings which make sense, for example, community calling, downloading, data transferring, etc. There is a generation gap, where the youth do not mind changing their number, because they go to Facebook and quickly upload their new number.

We have to recognise the changes that are happening, so we will say, 'Yes, we will give you value for money, but we will package the way you want it, not only around tariffs.'

How do you expect to compete with players that have already come out with youth-centric plans?

The important thing is to develop your products and services in a way that appeals more to youths. There are different strata of youths and our strategy is to develop according to segments. We have identified students as one segment, the SME cluster as one, the migrant sector as another.

Youths connect in different ways. So, it will be around the services that youths need, and not just value-added services.

On a pan-India basis, what is next on your agenda?

We will launch in UP East, UP West and Maharashtra circles, which will be completed by mid-April. So, we will have launches happening almost every week. We have 17 million customers, which we are looking to scale up to 30 million by the end of the year.

That will mean we launch our services in 18 circles by the end of the year.