Mobile services were introduced in the early 90s in India. Initially they were seen as rich men’s toys. The hand set was chunky like the wireless sets that police and airline employees possess. They were unwieldy, would not fit into the pocket and would act as very good self defense tool – you could cobble an attacker senseless with one hit from the hand set.
Incoming calls were charged at Rs 16/- and outgoing calls at Rs 32/-. Only the super rich could afford the cell phones and bear the call rates. It was very common to see a car stopping and the driver getting out of the car to take the call. It was a fashion symbol that had to be flouted.
By 2010 things have changed and boy how. The cell phone has become so common that in India today there are more than 550 million cell phones and counting. There are more cell phones in India than toilets. They have become so common that even sleeper class compartments in Indian railways carry charging points for ever eager mobile charging patrons.
India has become the mobile market of the world. With breath taking numbers that keep adding up every month it is set to outstrip China as a biggest cell phone market in the world. Its 3 G circle auctions were snapped up at awe inspiring figures.
So how did India achieve so much in so little time? India had one of the least tele densities on the world. So how did it leap frog from being the country with the least tele density to one having one of the highest tele densities on the world and all that in a decade and a half? Indian Mobile industry is a classic case study of what can happen when the shackles of protectionism are lifted off and private players come in and operate in a market place where survival of the fittest is the only mantra for success.
Fell by the way was the behemoth of the erstwhile era, the land line phone that customers used to wait for years together for a connection. Also fell by the way was BSNL mobiles services which recently lost its leadership position to Airtel inspite of having very good infrastructure, very competitive pricing and tacit governmental support. BSNL was the only operator to have 3 G facility in India till now.
We would examine in the next blog posting about the best marketing practices that made Indian mobile market the best in the world. Flavor this as I make my way out. India is one of the few markets in the world where share of post paid connections are much more than the pre paid connections.