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According to consumer activists, the total money with the company for talk-time that now cannot be used may run into crores of rupees even if just the lowest refill of Rs 180 is considered for each subscriber.
Under the facility of mobile number portability (MNP), while switching over to one operator from another, both the companies need to coordinate and exchange certain information, such as the unique porting code UPC), to transfer the number. But since the company has virtually closed down all its operations, it has left no option for many consumers and other operators but to go for a new number.
Sources at other cell phone operators in the city also confirmed the fact that MNP was a process to be carried out for subscriber by both the operators involved.
“Unless and until the existing operator provides the UPC of a customer to his new operator, the switchover cannot happen,” said a source from a cell service operator. “As all of Uninor’s operations are shut, the process will not materialize or may be considered invalid.”
Experts said there could be two solutions to the problem: either the government can ask the company to technically operate till the time people switch over or it can allot new UPCs to the companies to absorb consumers.
A Uninor statement said it was helpless in the face of the Supreme Court order to shut down, but was looking at solutions.
A company statement read: “The only fact here is that the SC ordered an immediate closure and we could not have stood in violation of the SC order. Unlike in other circles, we have not been able to give adequate notice or help customers port out. This is not the manner in which Uninor would have wanted to close down the business in Mumbai. Having complied with the court order, we are in dialogue with the authorities to explore any solution that allows our customers to port out to other operators of choice.”
Achintya Mukherjee of the Bombay Telephone Users’ Association (BTUA) said the authorities should have spared a thought for the common consumer.
“We deplore the action taken by the authorities to suddenly disconnect all subscribers of Uninor, leaving them in confusion,” Mukherjee said. “Where should the consumer go if he or she wants to retain the number and get back the pre-paid amount? The decision process could have easily avoided this inconvenience to consumers,who are now running pillar to post for redressal.”
Mukherjee said the bulk of the massive sum of money locked up in the entire action would be of pre-paid consumers. The average number of pre-paid subscribers across the board in the industry is 94 to 95 percent of mobile users.
“Last heard, the average revenue of Uninor per user (ARPU) was a satisfactory Rs. 180/- per user. This does not mean that the money involved would be necessarily a multiple of Rs.180/- x 18 lakh users for the Mumbai circle. There are many consumers who recharge for more than a months of usage. In some cases, like bulk users (where companies with their entire employee population is registered as users of UNINOR) would have substantial amounts paid in advance. It is frightening to imagine the consequences for such parties, settling their accounts,” he added. However company sources were unable to comment on the complaints of pending pre-paid amounts.
What is MNP?
MNP or mobile number portability (MNP) allows consumer to transfer his/her existing mobile phone number from one mobile phone network provider to another mobile phone provider so that if you change mobile phone networks you do not have to give everyone a new number. The process in which you can retain your existing mobile number even after changing the operator is called MNP.
For this consumer has to just send an SMS — PORT(space)(10 digit number) — to 1900. Then the operator has to allot you an UPC code which can then be taken up with the new operators for connection. Ideally, within six days the new operator should allot you the connection as in between process of checking documents and security clearance is conducted.
The Times Of India
These are tough times for most mobile operators. The category, among the most marketed and advertised, has players grappling to upsell and increase the bottomline.
A tough job given that India is thought to be nearly saturated on the subscriber-end and stagnating on the new acquisition front. Every player worth its salt is looking at adding to revenues by slicing and dicing the existing userbase.
While Airtel tries to form the connect by using teeny-bopper college kids, Vodafone seeks to ‘Delight’ with its tailormade offers and Idea tries to spread the Honey Bunny virus to an entire nation, the fifth largest player in the market Aircel has opted to go the route of selling extra benefits to the customers. The campaign is striving to establish a human connect for the brand, according to Prasoon Joshi, chairman, McCann WorldGroup India.
The campaign titled ‘Joy of a Little Extra’ consists of three 30 second commercials depicting various slice of life situations that range from grown men jumping with joy on getting an extra run in a friendly neighbourhood match, to a classroom of kids feeling elated when their teacher gives them a few minutes more to complete an exam.
The third ad shows the joy felt by a housewife on getting an unexpected bonus while shopping for vegetables. Joshi adds, “Simple joys of life are the most precious ones to cherish and the brands that deliver are the ones that the consumers will love. Hence there is a conscious attempt to dial up the ‘human connect’ of the brand.”
Research revealed that the starting point has to be growing the voice business revenues by attracting non-Aircel, 2nd or 3rd sim owners. Further insights on multi-sim owners showed that they display value-seeking behaviour.
Thus the cellular brand, which sees its broad demographics comprising of students and young working professionals, decided to come up with this campaign. Says Anupam Vasudev, chief marketing officer, Aircel, “We are a challenger. In this multi-sim market the wallet share is important to us and with this campaign we are looking at driving up consumption and hence increasing the value-share, as well.”
The current execution is in line with the brand’s simple messaging format that has been in place since the pocket internet days featuring ace cricketer M S Dhoni to the recent launch of the ‘One India tariff plan — One nation one rate’ campaign. While it may not give the brand distinct imagery, it may just help Aircel climb up the value-chain in the short-run, feels the agency head on a leading telecom player, on condition of anonymity.
The challenge for the brand which is relatively a late-entrant is to play the value game without being seen as cheap service provider, a trap that some players have got sucked into, according to Girish Trivedi, co-founder & director, Monk Consulting, a research and advisory firm.
According to the figures by Trai, Aircel is seen predominantly as a South brand is one of the few operators that has managed to show positive net additions during the last six months of 2012.
The brand has been for some time focusing on value of rather than the number of customers. For instance, its partnership with Apple was a step to lift the brand image and get high end subscribers. With this campaign it’s looking to cement an association with its loyal user base as well as to generate new trials and hoping that the ‘human touch’ would help achieve a lasting, deeper connect.
Sourabh Mishra, national planning head, bates finds the campaign a little cliched, and it reminds him of many similar ads across categories. The cliche is both in terms of the story it tells as well as the way it is told or the treatment, he feels and in a category that has some well etched brand communication like Vodafone, Idea, Airtel and DoCoMo, this counts as a wasted opportunity.
Whatever be the case, the reality is that the telecom market is at the tipping point and the buoyant story of the last few years is becoming exactly that — a thing of the past — with the pressures on the margins and the topline. For all brands, the growth has to come from other revenue opportunities.
The game is changing fast and in this changing landscape all telecom brands need to get their act quickly in place, else the ‘Rule of Three’ (famously propounded by Prof Jagdish Sheth and Dr. Rajendra Sisodia) that has happened in other industries may soon lead to the next wave of consolidation in which only the fittest (or the richest) survive.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO BE…!
What started as the petty issue as changing my tariff plan, has gained so much of momentum. When I had issues with my telecom company regarding the billing and tariff plans, like any other normal customer I asked my service provider to look into my matter. However, after so much of cajoling and persuasion my issue still remained unresolved. It was only when I decided to PORT that they seem to awake. Suddenly I was abuzz with so many calls and numerous lucrative offers.
I ask to myself, that do I have to lie every time to get even the basic plans that I deserve. Why there is so much of discrepancies. Why there is no proper customer redressal cell. I dug deep and found so many uneven practices prevalent with the telecom companies. On further investigation, I found I was not alone. There were numerous like me trapped in this whimsical web. May be a thousand ten thousand or million more, nobody knows. This is when I decided to take up the issue with the TRAI.
I always believed in, “Be the change you want to be.” And see my initiatives have born fruits. I am lucky to have your support and cooperation. Remember together we can and together we will.
Keep ushering your support and best wishes.
MD & CEO
Vodafone Essar Limited,
Peninsula Corporate Park,
8t January, 2013
Customer complain No: Service Request Number: 533804123
It gives me immense pleasure in writing to you when others from your company seem to turn deaf ear to my complaints. I am proud and content with the mere thought that there is at least one responsible in the company who looks at our matter the way it should be addressed. To abreast you a little this is my second consecutive letter to your costumer care concerned authorities.
Now it feels strange when I get auto responders telling me that my grievances will be addressed within two working days and then there’s an absolute silence on your part. Tell me Marten, Is there any human entity in your company who renders help for a genuine cause. After six long days of waiting for my phone to ring all I get is a template saying that the company tried to reach me but I was not available. I wonder what kind of network you have when you can’t contact one of your distressed customers. Or am I suppose to eat breathe and sleep with my mobile waiting for that dreaded call from your company?
Marten, while you are busy converting Vodafone into money making machine, others from your so called esteemed company seem to ignore the fact that everything depends on its consistent customer base. I stress on the word,? consistent? cause Vodafone seem to be more busy on increasing the customer base rather than retaining it.
Can’t you see I have been suffering and having horrid dreams? And it’s just not about me; there may be million more that may be undergoing through the same trauma. It has been ten long years I have been overcharged. I have been charged for the services which should have been absolutely free to me. And then your customer care hardly seems to care much. They often come up with concocted stories and alibis. Let alone care, they did not even bother to talk to me and understand my issues.
Marten, Media refers to you as one genuine person willing to take the company to another level. But please don’t do it at the cost of your esteemed customers.
As far as media is concerned, I have kept few mail ids handy to forward it to them. My journalists friends would be too happy to spice up the story before getting it into the print. However, as if now I have restrained myself. A prompt action is all I am looking at this stage.
MD & CEO
Vodafone Essar Limited,
Peninsula Corporate Park,
8th January, 2013
I wanted to address myself as the valued and esteemed customer, however I am ashamed to do so as Vodafone seem to be least concerned. I have horrific dreams of Vodafone calling me, and updating me about the revised plans and offers. I frantically check my mail, keep looking into my mobile for your calls but ah no calls. Alas! It?s a dream I realise.
I visit the Vodafone store, but they seem to confuse me. The service rendered is poor. But who cares, as long as Vodafone is increasing its customer base. Good that you are growing, but how far it is justifiable at the cost of a loyal customer who has stayed with you for almost a decade now(26th June 2003 till date to be precise). Please check your records, you will find.
While other service providers keeps updating their existing customers about their new plans and offers, Vodafone seems to be complacent. If you go through your records, you will find I have been paying such hefty amount for no reasons. You are least concerned about my soaring bills. I have to make frantic run to your galleries to get my plans updated. Tell me how far it is justifiable that I run from post to pillar to get things done? Is it not your moral responsibility to look after my issues being your loyal customer?
I must tell you, we have been your loyal customer since long. Here by ?we? I mean me and my family members. There?s an important incident worth citing here. When my Aunt who is in her late sixties tried to approach one of your galleries in Borivali, she was left stranded and unattended.
Is it customer service? Do we have any right to certain amenities when we have been paying our bills promptly? Don?t you treat even the senior citizen with respect and dignity? Do they have to always accompany with an escort to get things done?
There hardly had been an occasion when I have paid a bill lesser than a thousand bugs and that too for services I should be given absolutely free of charge. But who cares, as long as the company is making hefty profits and increasing customer base. You seem to lure new customers with lucrative offers, excellent I appreciate. But how could you be completely oblivion of the pain and trauma that an existing customer goes through. Can you be forthright in explaining me the reason for such a disparity? Is our loyalty of any worth to you? Of what use it is when the new customers gets the better deals than the existing ones.
I make another trip to the Vodafone gallery. The efficient sales team would confuse me with difficult terminology. Instead of keeping things simple they would rather complicate the issue. Why it can?t be that simple that even a lay man can understand what is the service being offered and how much are we charged for that particular service.
The latest being the Vodafone live and Vodafone connect. How are we supposed to know that at a particular moment we are using Vodafone live or Vodafone connect? And then my bill is abuzz with this terminology that gives me a whirl wiz. I am separately being charged for both the services. The irony of the fact is that I was promised free internet usage.
And now to add insult to injury, when I talk of shifting loyalty and start looking for other service providers, you suddenly come up with lucrative offers. Where were you when I greatly needed your support and service? Is this the kind of service that you provide and then you expect your customers to stay back.
Tell me don?t I have the right to know the best plans and offers being an existing customer for almost a decade now. Your new ad tells of ?made for you?, offer; now could you please tell me is it marketing gimmick or do you really care for your customer? If so where is my offer? Let alone offers, I never received any phone calls updating me of the current plans and tariffs.
I am distressed with your services; it seems like a bunch of Indians chosen to fool their Indian counterpart by a multinational brand.
My current plans runs like this:
My current tariff plan is: 199/- + 30/- [local @30p] + 149/- [sms pack] + 40 [200min. free local talk time] + net charges [without any pack]
Do I have any chances of a revised tariff plan or do I really need to make the big switch.
Please let me know,
Depressed and distressed,