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Business – Q&A: Deepak Gulati, President, Tata DoCoMo

Bibhu Ranjan Mishra

With other mobile operators also offering ‘per-second billing’ to their subscribers, Tata DoCoMo President Deepak Gulati says they are “just paying homage to the concept” which was pioneered by his company. This is just one element in an entire marketing concept. In future, the selling proposition for the company is not going to be per-second billing, but the value it brings to the table in terms of value-added services, customer experience and a lot more, he adds. In an interview with Bibhu Ranjan Mishra in Bangalore on the sidelines of the inauguration of Tata DoCoMo’s ‘Dive In’ store, a customer experience zone for handsets and various mobile applications, Gulati speaks about the way forward. Excerpts:

What led you to launch the per-second billing concept in India?
Since we were late in entering the GSM market in India, we tried to get an insight by identifying the ‘need gaps’ in the market place. We realised this (per-second billing) is one need gap. Similarly, we realised that if a customer wants to buy a handset today, he does not honestly know what to do. He may go to a particular brand shop. But, in that way, there is no chance of getting a comparative picture of the handsets offered by other vendors. That’s the reason we are launching our own customer experience zone. We will be launching many other services like that in the near future.

How have you fared in the first three months since the launch of the GSM service?
We are present in just eight circles, whereas others are present in 22 circles. Despite this, we have added a good number of subscribers in the last two months, which is unprecedented. But it has to be mentioned that we are not in a race. We might be number eight or nine in terms of subscribers, but there is no race. We are very thankful and happy after the first three months.

How comfortable are you with the rising competition? In telecom, you need to have large numbers coming in and, fortunately, our subscriber numbers are big enough.

Others too are now launching the pay-per-second billing model…
It is homage being paid to this concept (per-second billing), which is very nice. Because, why should you pay for what you don’t use? Why should you be charged for one minute when you talked for five seconds? There was a time when not just consumers, even the industry and media were thinking that perhaps the one-minute pulse is the only way to go, which we have proved wrong.

What’s your unique selling proposition in this case?
Tata DoCoMo is not about 1 paise per second. Tata DoCoMo is about ‘pay for what you use’, and not charge the customers for what they don’t use. There is a fundamental difference between us and them (other service providers). I agree that others have copied us now, but they have copied just a portion, which is the tariff. It’s okay, and it makes no difference to us and to our numbers.

Is there any other edge you have over the competition?
It is all about how we think. For example, we offer the first 30 seconds for free when a subscriber downloads a song. The reason why we are offering this is, when you dial in, it will connect to the ring-back tone server. The IVR (interactive voice response) system will ask you to press button one for English, two for Bengali, three for Telugu or four for Kannada. It takes 30 seconds to reach there. We don’t intend to charge the customer until they use our service. Almost a year ago, one distributor asked me: ‘Why do you guys charge for window shopping?’ That struck me immediately – downloading a song is nothing but window shopping.

When launched, Tata DoCoMo promised a lot of value-added services hitherto unavailable in the market. How far have you reached?
Our motto is about simplifying lives by enabling customers to do more with their lives. As a part of that, we have just opened our customer experience store, called ‘Dive in’. There will be many more such relevant value-added services. Similarly, we have launched a service called ‘Geo Fencing’. For example, when the school bus carrying a child deviates from its normal route, the mobile device which is with the child is able to send concurrent messages to the parents, class teachers, the principal – whoever is concerned. This is an invention by DoCoMo which we have launched in India, and there will be many more such services over time.

Now even Trai is reportedly thinking about recommending a ‘per-second billing’ option…
Because they have to do what’s right for consumers. To pay for what they use is the right of consumers. There are several countries where per-second billing is offered. If Trai really recommends this, it will be a homage to the Indian mobile user. When we launched the model here in India, our chairman referred to this (per-second billing) as a trial for the Indian consumers. Now this model has been tested in the Indian market.

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October 15, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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