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Competition Ahead: Vtnl at Cross Roads

Essay by   •  December 12, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,295 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,336 Views

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The telecom sector had been functioning as a typical government department right from its inception. With the Department of Telephones (DoT) being under the exclusive control of the Ministry of Communications, Government of India (GO!), the system functioned more as a monopoly., With the advent of the LPG process (liberalization, privatization and globalization) in the early nineties, the telecom department went through a phase of modernization. A number of new and sophisticated electronic exchanges were installed which enhanced the capacity and lead to the disappearance of waiting list for telephone connections. In a landmark decision in 1995-96, the Government of India threw open its gates for private players in the area of cellular services. LCG and ACG were the two major players to enter this area in Karnataka region, while DoT decided to remain as an observer and continued as a provider of basic services only. Subsequently the Internet, ISD and other services were also opened to private participation.

The year 1998 saw the entry of Vikas Telenet (VTNL) as a basic service provider in the state of Karnataka. It launched its basic services in Bangalore district, the commercial capital of the state, in January 1998. The impact of this entry was felt by DoT as it resulted in a mass customer churning, challenging the market leadership of DoT in basic services. This growing challenge from VTNL made General Manager DoT Indore, R.L. Rawat realized the need for a comprehensive review of the competitive scenario. The situation faced by the Bangalore district was one of its kind. It was the only city where four companies were providing telephone services. LCG and ACG were providing cellular services while VTNL and DoT were providing basic services. To attract the customers all the providers had attractive tariff plans. DoT's market share was not affected by the entry of LCG and ACG as - they operated only as cellular service providers and their services carried a premium price. But the entry of VTNL as a basic service provider with attractive tariff plans showed a marked shift in customer base from DoT to VTNL specially in case of heavy users make it necessary for DoT to come up with similar competitive tariff plans.

General Manager Operations DoT Bangalore, S.N. Dutt, felt that improved services, customer care and proper pricing would help in winning back the heavy users who accounted for almost 60 to 65% of the total revenue. Keeping this in mind, a review of VTNL's tariff plans was done (Annexure I). The review revealed that the customers were getting a distinct price advantage in the rentals and free calls given by VTNL.

Along with this, a discount ranging from 2.5 to 16% was also announced by VTNL. S.N. Dutt formulated a comprehensive plan to guard DoT's market share. Officers were appointed as account holders and were responsible for rendering personalized customer care to commercially important customers hoping to retain them with better services. He also formulated a proposal of discounts which was forwarded to the Circle Head Office (Annexure-II) and a presentation was made by DGM - Marketing K.K. Sen, highlighting the rate at which customer churning was taking place and the need for implementation of new tariff plan. He pleaded with the senior officers that DoT needed to be at least reactive if not proactive, to sustain itself in the market. The proposal was well received and forwarded to the Ministry of Communications for approval. Responding to the need of the hour, the Ministry decided to offer a comprehensive discount of 2.5 to 16% for its heavy users. The scheme was introduced in Bangalore, which was extended first to the state of Karnataka and later on to the entire nation.

VTNL, which had so far been concentrating only on the heavy users, decided to now expand its network to get a wider customer base. With this view in mind, a number of promotional schemes were introduced e.g., web phone, a facility for internet usage where access to the net was provided at a cost of 60 paise per call only. It also announced free Internet facility for a year on every new connection. Besides this, VTNL went in for heavy promotion of its schemes. The careful wording

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