Airtel to express itself from four platforms

India’s largest GSM mobile service operator, Bharti Airtel, is embarking on a significant shift in its marketing strategy. Faced with diminishing marginal returns on voice revenues and the imminent threat from Vodafone, Bharti Airtel has abandoned a ‘one-size-fits-all’ demographic segmentation and has decided to reorganise users into different segments based on attitude, adoption of value added services and revenues generated per user.

Bharti Airtel marketing and communications director Gopal Vittal says, “We undertook this segmentation research so that we could undertake specific marketing activities and offer different propositions to our most important customer segments.” Airtel has identified its two most important customer segments — high-end users and high adopters of value-added services (VAS). Airtel’s average revenue per user (ARPU) currently stand at Rs 399, and with voice charges unlikely to increase anytime soon, it has focused on driving VAS as a means to increase the ARPU.

Airtel will focus most of its activities on a group they’ve defined as the Funsters, a group 18-35 years old, but with a common trait; a high adoption of VAS. This group accounts for VAS spends of Rs 100 per month and Airtel thinks with some targeted marketing it can be pushed to Rs 250. According to Mr Vittal, “This group sends on average 300-400 messages a month. Some of them even send up to a thousand messages a month.”

This group constitutes nearly a third of Airtel’s user base of 40 million customers. To cater to this segment, Bharti Airtel has revamped its WAP portal and will relaunch it in a few days. Like its competitor, Hutch, it is also offering mobile search options through an exclusive tie-up with Google and will charge 15 paise per 10 KB download. Finally, from their segmentation research, they have identified music on demand as a key value proposition since a lot of users are on the move, and will offer subscription to 30 minutes of music for Rs 30, which users can download and listen for a month.

The other important segment for the company is the top 5% of the users, who Airtel has defined as the Achievers. This segment isn’t a high adopter of VAS, but contributes to revenues nearly ten times that of Airtel’s average revenue per user, currently at Rs 399. To enhance customer experience for this segment, Airtel has separate priority relationship managers and will additionally roll out a series of service-based segmentation. They have also tied up with HTC and Blackberry for the high-end handsets catering specifically to this segment.