Karnataka key driver of Tata Docomo fortunes

After a successful FY 2015, it renews focus on core market

Karnataka key driver of Tata Docomo fortunes

Much is at stake for Tata Teleservices and its unified telecom brand Tata Docomo on the success of its operations in the Karnataka circle, where it has the largest number of users.

The country’s seventh largest telecom operator in terms of subscribers (Trai data, March 2015) actually dropped users across all circles in March 2015, but Karnataka was an aberration with 1,07,593 net additions. Talking to Deccan Herald, Ashok Ghose, MBU Head, Tata Teleservices (Karnataka and Kerala), said the company which entered the circle only in 2009, is the third largest player in the market as of March 31, 2015, both in terms of revenue market share (12.7 per cent) as well as VLR (visitor location register) market share (15 per cent).

VLR is a closely tracked metric which represents subscribers who are active in the network. Ghose said that in the just concluded financial year (FY 2014-15), all eight operators in the circle together added 30 lakh VLRs, of which Tata Docomo’s share alone was around 10 lakh. In fact, the telco came in second in additions after Airtel, Ghose said. He claimed the second position for Tata Docomo also in incremental revenues during the financial year, pushing up the revenue market share by 0.78 per cent.

It has around 10,000 sites in Karnataka, of which 3,200 are 3G. It has more than 60,000 retailers, and 160-plus owned and franchisee-run stores. Tata Teleservices, which operates in 19 of the 22 circles, has 3G presence in eight. Ghose said 3G is a big differentiator for the telco in Karnataka. This comes from the realisation that some 70 per cent of new and existing postpaid subscribers are using mobile internet, he said.

Unique combination plans

Ashok Ghose claims Tata Docomo has stirred up the market with its one-of-a-kind combination postpaid and prepaid plans. “We are unique in offering combination voice and unlimited data in postpaid, as well as combination data and voice recharge in prepaid,” he said.

According to him, no other player offers this flexibility and convenience. In the combination postpaid plans, Tata Docomo offers a maximum of 2GB data at 3G speed, and thereafter unlimited data at 2G speed. At the higher end, like in the Rs 1,299 plan, even voice becomes unlimited in circles where there is a Tata network, he said. It’s from Karnataka that Tata Docomo launched these combination plans first. Not surprising because the circle accounts for around 18 per cent of its revenues.

Another trend which Ghose noticed in Karnataka is the split between prepaid and postpaid of 85 per cent to 15 per cent. Nationally, the share of postpaid in other circles is as low as 5 per cent. He also said that 40 per cent of new users in the circle are those switching over from another operator using mobile number portability (MNP).

Ghose highlighted the software tool called IMA which continuously runs algorithms to avoid network congestion, and the Key Escalation Tracker which tracks 17 major processes every day to anticipate customer complaints, as two of the company’s priority areas.

Despite partner NTT Docomo exiting, Tata Teleservices bid fairly aggressively at the recent round of spectrum auctions, and was the fourth largest bidder with bids worth Rs 7,851 crore. But going forward, the market would demand continued innovation from the company to remain relevant, considering its rocky start in the new financial year.

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