What compelled Bharti Airtel exit bulk SMS business?

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Telecom leader Bharti Airtel’s exit from bulk SMS business has come as a big surprise. Even its competitors must have astonished by this move. For this exit, Bharti Airtel has cited “increasing customer convenience issues arising out pesky calls and SMS”.

Obviously, Airtel is getting a lot of applause for this ‘Customer Centric’ decision. However, a deeper analysis of this choice reveals the other (and may be much truer) picture of the sudden exit.

bharti-airtel

Let us first take a look at the market size of Bulk SMS business in India

At average 2 paisa per SMS and around 150 Million bulk SMS per day, it is a Rs. 100 Crore per annum business. So what Airtel ideally leaves out is Rs. 20-30 crore annual business and probably 5-10 crores of profit.

But still, why loose it?

The most important reason is the big damage it is causing to the Airtel brand.

Look on Twitter for example. Most of the tweets directed to @airtel_presence are about the complaints, especially about spam SMS. In fact in the last month, when most of the print media was scourging about unsolicited SMS, they belligerently targeted Tata Teleservices & Airtel.

Although the market leader, Airtel needs to be very cautious about its brand image. Consider this – Airtel has already gone international in a big way (operates in 19 countries), plus it is the highest bidder (13000 Crore) for 3G in India. Add to that the fast decreasing ARPU and increased competition (total 14 operators). Put in the IPTV, DTH, broadband sectors it is trying to lead in. So in this big pie of overall telecom business, 20-30 Crore is definitely a miniscule amount to vie for when that directly affects the reputation in a big way.

Moreover, had Airtel ‘really’ been concerned about customer grievances, they would have-

  1. Also exited from telemarketing voice business
  2. Taken direct customer friendly service initiatives and not introduced fees to talk to their customer care
  3. Announced & implemented more stringent measures to curb spam & pesky calls from its network.

All in all, this is definitely NOT a ‘Customer centric’ initiative. This is a brilliant marketing move with a perfect timing. Sugar coating it as ‘Customer comes First’, Airtel just ‘Expressed itself’ smartly.

What’s your view?

  1. pankaj Balbudhe says

    I want to du this task

  2. Dilyana Miteva says

    Im using websendsms.com for my notes and i can also send sms globally.The price is very cheap and there is very good service.

  3. Randhir Ghos says

    Good Offer

  4. G.SHASHI KANTH says

    I NEED INFROMATION ABOUT THE NETWORKS PROVIDING 1 PAISA SMS BENIFIT FOR A NOBEL CAUSE. FOR EXAMPLE:- USUALLY WE RECEVE SOME MES LIKE SOME BODY NEEDS MONITARY HELP FOR MEDICAL EXPENSES TO CURE DEADLY DESISES ETC, MAY I KNOW THE PROCESS.

  5. lokesh says

    I like your article and it really gives an outstanding idea that is very helpful foe all the people on web.
    U can aslo try msg91 that is offering fast and reliable Bulk SMS text messaging services around the world.
    It offers bulk sms gateway, Bulk SMS Solution, mobile bulk sms group SMS services, broadcast sms service.

  6. Anna Thomas says

    Indeed great points. I really like it. looking forward for more such articles. keep up the good work.

    FIX Bytes

  7. Atishay jain says

    I like your article and it really gives an outstanding idea that is very helpful foe all the people on web.
    U can aslo try msg91 that is offering fast and reliable Bulk SMS text messaging services around the world.
    It offers bulk sms gateway, Bulk SMS Solution, mobile bulk sms group SMS services, broadcast sms service.

  8. Amit says

    Dear Customer,

    Thank you for writing to Airtel.

    With reference to your email dated, you have expressed concern regarding the promotional messages for your mobile number 9448819225.

    We understand that this situation must have inconvenienced you.

    We regret to inform you that we are unable to process your request as the number is not an Airtel number. Hence, we request you to contact your respective operator for the same.

    For further assistance, mail us at [email protected].

    Your response will help us to enhance your experience with Airtel. Please click on the link below and provide us your valuable feedback on this interaction.

    We thank you and value your association with Airtel.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Jissin Antony
    Customer Care
    Bharti Airtel Limited

    To leave your feedback on the current interaction, please use the below hyperlink
    Click here to provide Feedback.

    Or, if you cannot click on the above link, please copy the full URL from below and paste the URL in your web browser.
    https://ispeed.airtel.in/iVoiceFeedback/Search/EFViewerDE.aspx?info=D6395FA8D13355BADD3C57B7C3C2CBC93D40414D48B3DB2566A7EE2D66A8EA2D56&refno=1909201012313

    Simplify Life with Airtel Selfcare. Just dial *121# and get instant information related to your account on your Mobile Screen.

    ———Original Message———-
    From: [email protected]
    To: [email protected]
    Cc:
    Sent: 19/09/2010 12:46:26
    Subject: Re: DO NOT DISTURB [|BAL|9448819225|170920109706|]

    Dear sir,

    I am recieving marketing SMS of AIRTEL TV on my BSNL mobile – 9448819225.

    This number is registered with NDNC, so airtel should remove this number from
    UCC.

    I have never asked AIRTEL to send me marketing SMS and its your mistake to send
    SMS to a number registered with NDNC. WHY YOU PEOPLE DONT RESPECT PRIVACY OF
    COMMAN MAN. YOU SEND SMS WITHOUT ASKING BUT YOU SHOW INABILITY TO STOP SMS
    BECASUE I AM NOT AIRTEL CUSTOMER.

    JUst let me know that will AIRTEL remove my mobile from mailing list or not. So
    that i can ask BSNL to take action against AIRTEL as per TRAI guidelines on
    NDNC.

    I read in newspaper that AIRTEL has taken initiative of not allowing its
    network for Bulk SMS business and your response is against that claim.

    —– Message from [email protected] ———
    Date: 18 Sep 2010 14:28:12 +0530
    From: [email protected]
    Subject: Re: DO NOT DISTURB [|BAL|9448819225|170920109706|]
    To: [email protected]

    Dear Customer,

    Thank you for writing to Airtel.

    With reference to your email dated 17/09/2010, you have expressed
    concern regarding the promotional messages for your Airtel mobile
    number 9448819225.

    We regret to inform you that we are unable to process your request as
    the number mentioned is not an Airtel number. Hence, we

    request you to revert with the Airtel number to proceed further in
    this regard.

    For further assistance, mail us at [email protected][1].

    Your response will help us to enhance your experience with Airtel.
    Please click on the link below and provide us your valuable feedback
    on this interaction.

    We thank you and value your association with Airtel.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Jissin Antony
    Customer Care
    Bharti Airtel Limited

    To leave your feedback on the current interaction, please use the
    below hyperlink
    Click here to provide Feedback.

    Or, if you cannot click on the above link, please copy the full URL
    from below and paste the URL in your web browser.
    https://ispeed.airtel.in/iVoiceFeedback/Search/EFViewerDE.aspx?info=3858BECB3556
    B6DD395BB6D62362ABE91D60A1ED2952BAC3C4C5C0C2C3CACB33&refno=170920109706

    Simplify Life with Airtel Selfcare. Just dial *121# and get instant
    information related to your account on your Mobile Screen.

    ———Original Message———-
    From: [email protected]
    To: [email protected]
    Cc:
    Sent: 17/09/2010 09:27:57
    Subject: Do not disturb

    My mobile 9448819225 is registered with NDNC. However i am recieving
    one SMS
    every day for AIRTEL TV.

    KIndly stop UCC immediately.

  9. Anna Thomas says

    The new thoughts and ideas of Bharti Airtel are very interesting. this is the innovation of the Airtel and it offers various services to its user like telecommunication, development and many more.

  10. Sagar Bedmutha says

    Dear Viral,
    Appreciate your views. But I think, you are mssing my point how Airtel has ‘Sugar coated’ the whole excercise in the name of ‘Caring for customer’ ONLY. They nowhere mentioned about the low business dynamics of bulk sms business.
    We are not comparing operators here so let’s not compare who does what. Airtel may score way less on billing if you compare with Docomo billing plans. So let’s restrict the comparison first.
    Tweets was just one of the example to point out how people were so irritant at pesky SMS.
    I’m myself using (only) Airtel since I started using mobile from last 7-8 years. And my corporate plan is also with Airtel. I also admire Airtel for innovation & leadership. But that does not mean I should take their any story.
    See, the whole point is, as highlighted well in the article- This is a brilliant marketing move with a perfect timing. Sugar coating it as ‘Customer comes First’, Airtel just ‘Expressed itself’ smartly.
    Cheers!

  11. Viral says

    Sagar,

    I beg to differ quite a bit on this. Firstly, Airtel is taking an initiative to exit something which tends to benefit customers, why look at it with suspicion? – be it on account of their own convenience / brand well being or genuinely directed towards solving customer grievances?

    It is a well-known fact that Airtel has always taken new initiatives before any other telecom companies – be it product innovation, outsourcing jobs or even expanding their business to newer territories. Exiting Bulk SMS business is one such initiative to solve the customer grievances by the market leader.

    And, if it is showing the lead in a noble cause, for other telcos to follow, nothing better than that. Foregoing the Bulk SMS business for the company, which could be around few crores rupees, is manageable for the company which has whole lot of stake at offer in the domestic and African markets, both.

    Agreed, the operator does suffer from low customer care outlets. But, when you say that most of the postings directed at its Twitter ids are complaints; I would like to point out over here that most of the Corporate Twitter ids (especially, those in service providing business) are used for this very specific purpose – to take complaints and resolve them; more than creative discussion.

    Lastly, you say that they charge you to talk to their customer care division. Well, agreed – its a bad practice; but then even Vodafone charges me for talking to customer service. t not just with Airtel.

    Dear Sagar… some harshness regretted, but there is something in this company that I like a lot – its ethics, management quality and swift business model.

  12. Umasree Raghunath says

    SMS at one time became a ‘Simplified Marketing Syndrome”…. and a real pain to the consumers…. but as you said, this is taking advantage of the situation and playing safe. But definitly they would have a strategic fall back plan to make out these losses in profits that the company would be incurring on this decision….and that cost would surely in the near future fall back on the excisting customers…. having said this,,,I am still their Customer since they started business in India:-)

  13. vCampaigner says

    It’s high time the authorities realise the evils of ‘Direct Marketing’ which being so penetrative in nature – is not used with much discretion. With mobile internet and email on the go catching, email marketing in india will have an important role to play in the marketers books.

  14. rabi gupta says

    Nice article. One more thing I would like to add- Movie out of Bulk SMS makes sense as bulk SMS costs a minuscule 2 paisa/SMS. But hang on- Majority of revenues for these operators come from short code SMSes. So for every short code a user pays 3 Rs out of which Rs 2.40 goes to the operator. SMS business is a huge market, but bulk SMS business is losing steam and margins are really very less. What do you think?

  15. Mohit says

    Bang On.

    Airtel these days really sucks. In my opinion, they were the pioneers in selling mobile no. databases which started this entire game.

    Their customer support is absolutely non-existent.

    Quality of services going down with each passing day.

    Any other country, they would have been castrated by now. But then, in India, sab chalta hai :-)

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