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Sugato Banerji

Chief Marketing Officer DTH | 09 Aug 2010

Sugato Banerji Profile: Mr. Sugato Banerji, Chief Marketing Officer of DTH at Bharti Airtel Limited, holds the pivotal position of setting the strategic direction, marketing positioning and customer relationships of its DTH Services. He comes with 20 years of experience in sales, advertising and marketing across several product categories. Previously, he held the position of Director, Debit, Prepaid and Money Transfer and Business Development, South Asia at Visa’ prior to that he worked in Standard Chartered Bank.

Airtel digital TV – the DTH service from Bharti Airtel – is one of the leading national level DTH service in the country which offers its customers MPEG 4 with DVBS 2 – currently the most advanced digital broadcasting technologies available in the world after HD broadcasting.

“The DTH market has tremendous growth opportunities and is slated to grow to over 45 million from the current 23 million by 2013. The industry added about 12 million customers in the first five years but in the last one year it has added another 10 million and it is witnessing growth from all corners. This is one of the reasons for more players to enter the market.”

Q. Since the launch of Airtel DTH, how has the journey been?

Since the launch of Airtel digital TV in October 2008 the DTH story for us has been fairly good. We have added close to 3.5 million customers as of mid July 2010. We have also established ourselves as the most preferred brand in the industry. Today, one in every four customers coming onto the DTH platform is an Airtel digital TV customer. We have already achieved leadership in the eastern region of India and are well on our way to achieving a pan-India leadership. We are proud of introducing many firsts in the industry like Universal Remote, recording via cell phones from anytime, anywhere as well as Dolby Digital Plus sound with our HD box. Interestingly we find that rural India is an extremely important market for us and has played a substantial role in our growth in DTH Services in last one year or so. Surprisingly we find that over 60% of our customers come from outside the top 300 towns in India.

Q. After the entry of DTH in India, many new players have entered the market. How do you perceive the industry to grow in the future?

The DTH market has tremendous growth opportunities and is slated to grow to over 45 million from the current 23 million by 2013. The industry added about 12 million customers in the first five years but in the last one year it has added another 10 million and it is witnessing growth from all corners. This is one of the reasons for more players to enter the market.

DTH services provide customers more choice, convenience and comfort. With superior quality and interactive features, DTH is making more and more customers buy their first TV. We have seen the mobile market boom in just a few years and we expect wireless technology used for DTH to do the same and hope the government will support this process of growth.

Q. Kindly tell us about the recent marketing activities and strategies that Airtel DTH has adopted? Any promotional activities?

We successfully launched Airtel digital TV recorder which allows recording of your favourite TV shows through GPRS and Java enabled cell phones from any operator anywhere anytime, that has been received very well by the customers. We also recently launched first ever Airtel digital TV HD box with Dolby Digital Plus with 7.1 surround system available at Rs 2250 for all existing Airtel digital TV customers and Rs.2840 onwards for all new customers.

During the FIFA World Cup for our new customers we also introduced 75 Days of ESPN with our Economy pack at the same price of Rs. 1590. Also South Super Sports pack (ESPN+TEN) at Rs. 1590 for 100 days for every new Airtel digital TV customer in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Q. How is the product positioned compared to the competition?

Our proposition to the consumer is to provide them with a great product and superior service at affordable prices. We also offer localized content (my entertainment, my language) to consumers at every nook and corner of the country. Our consumer research shows that consumers buy DTH for better picture quality and consistency of service. Keeping this research in mind we have several features which ensure that we deliver a superior viewing experience:
-MPEG4 DVBS2 technology
-ALC (Automatic level control)satellite that boosts signal strength by over 17% in times of adverse weather conditions
-Instant switchover back up redundant uplink site at Bangalore
-20% larger dish in very high rainfall areas as standard installation item
-Recently we have introduced HD box with Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound

A challenge for this category is ensuring that the recharge availability is simple and easily available. This is the core to controlling churn. This is where we have our ‘easy recharge’ platform and our vast reach of mobile distribution which is enabling us to ensure recharge is possible within a few yards of the consumer. We also have built several other channels like the IVR, the web, sms etc to ensure there are multiple access points which the customer can use at his convenience.

Q. What are the revenue targets for 2010? How has the performance been in the 1st quarter of this financial year?

The first quarter of this year has been an exciting one. Riding on the success of Airtel digital TV recorder, we crossed the 3 million subscribers mark at the end of May. Having recently introduced HD services, we currently have over 3.4 million customers. We have been maintaining leadership of monthly net customer additions for the past 15 months and every 4th customer that buys a DTH connection today comes onto the Airtel digital TV platform.

Q. Could you tell us a little about the consumer trends in this industry?

Today, the discerning Indian customer is very conscious of the service he opts for and is sensitive to price as well. The winning DTH service will be one which offers superior quality, content and interactivity to its viewers. Our consumer research shows that consumers buy DTH for better picture quality and consistency of service. We are seeing consumers buying TV because quality TV signals are now available to them through DTH in the remotest part of the country. A critical aspect of the DTH growth is that it is entering poor cable or cable dry areas because of the viewing experience we can provide over existing means in these areas.

Q. How has DTH become a preferred platform for advertisers?

Being a transparent, measurable medium, DTH can address the need for contextual advertising, with the potential of multiplying the price of inventory. Assuming on average, a TV is switched on thrice in a day with a customer seeing the welcome/EPG screen for at least 3 seconds across 3mn DTH households, is an opportunity to monetise the 27 mn seconds of exposure. Brand builders therefore rather than thinking of reach and frequency are looking at unobtrusive ways to get consumers to invite brands into their lives – and this is where the opportunity lies for DTH operators!

Q. What are the various opportunities/assets that Airtel digital TV offers potential advertisers?

Airtel digital TV offers loading screen, home page and inner page, access to various interactive services and DTH Menu as live billboard which can be customized to cater to advertiser’s need. These features / offerings are unique advertising assets available only with Airtel. Also, since the medium is digitized it gives the advertisers an exact picture of their return on investment, and guaranteed reach to customers.

Q. Could you name a few marketing innovations that you have carried out for Airtel DTH?

The width and quality of the content could be at the core of Airtel DTH’s campaigns, the theme being-Your region’s entertainment always stays with you, wherever you go. An interesting innovation that we introduced is 'Getrix' a game which Airtel customers can play on all three screens- be it the TV screen (DTH), laptop/PC (broadband) or even the mobile screen.

Q. Who are your Media agency and your creative agency?

The media agency is Madison India and creative agencies are JWT (TVC) and Rediffusion Y&R (Print). Our incumbent digital agency is Webchutney Studios Private Ltd.

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