Head of Marketing | 02 Aug 2003
"It is the technology advantage and not the lower rates that is attracting more and more customers to Reliance India Mobile"
In this conversation with Ritu Midha of exchange4media, Kaushik Roy, the new Head of Marketing Reliance India Mobile discusses pricing, technology, promotions, distribution and other related advantages that, according to him, have made RIM a threat to other mobile service providers.
Q. How is the Reliance India Mobile positioned?
RIM is positioned to change the lives of people by providing a value for money - high technology mobile solution.
Q. How has Raliance India Mobile evolved, and has this brought changes in brand and communication strategies?
Initial campaign that you would have seen was in fact the launch of Reliance India Mobile's first offering in the form of a limited period tariff plan2. It was called Reliance India Mobile DAPO (Dhirubhai Ambani Pioneer offer). This was tactical advertising trying to promote an attractive offer. Focus, at that point in time, was on numbers. We were looking at as many subscribers as possible.
We have evolved now. Today we are 2.5 million plus service provider. There has been a tremendous rush for the Rs 501, Hungama offer. Though, number of subscribers is not the only front where we have evolved.
Today our network is in place and our service standards are up to industry standards. We are not complacent about it - but it has given us an indication that we are moving in the right direction. Today our customers are beginning to realise the advantage, the delight of actually choosing Reliance India Mobile.
Q. HLL ordered 8000 connections - is it an endorsement?
It is certainly an endorsement. We would like to believe that any large organisation placing a large order is a testimony that they have figured out it is the best possible communication system to go for. However, that is not what we are relying on - we are relying on our own research. We have our own customer satisfaction code - through that we are getting a clear impression that today we are ready to talk about customer satisfaction or delight at its first stage.
Q. What do you mean when you say customer delight?
I was just coming to that. Let us look at various aspects of it with special reference to our category. First of all the "price-value" issues, the customers are realising that by choosing Reliance they have chosen a great value for money service. Initially, I think it was difficult for them to understand how much they would be saving, but today when they have been using the service, they are realizing that they have been able to do a lot more by spending very little. It is a pleasant surprise for them.
Q. How would you compare yourself with your competitors?
In term of call quality Reliance is much better. On Clarity, which is a very important factor, Reliance's score is much higher than most other operators. The other thing coming out of the research is that our being a national operator is working in our favour. They do not have to move to different networks while traveling and they can call RIM numbers across the country. Today we are talking of 673 cities in India - which is huge. Of that we are operational in 450 cities across India. If you talk of first 110 cities, which are the more important cities, we are already there and doing healthy business.
Reliance customers are also realising that R World is indeed a great thing. Very frankly whatever we initially communicated was not adequate to convey the joys of having a mobile phone where at the press of a button you could go to the R World and get news, video, songs - a whole host of things starting from astrology to jokes. It is only the beginning but still it is a great experience for the customers.
Q. Would you like to share with us any other findings of the research?
Yes. Of course. To begin with the category, communication is all about happiness - most people tend to make calls when they are happy. Coming specifically to our brand - the insight is that customers have a sense of joy in being Reliance customers. This joy comes from the fact that Reliance is working right across the country, and from the realisation that this brand offers great value for money.
Q. Have you communicated your wide presence through your communication?
No matter what we did through the initial period, we spoke about distances getting covered. So in our communication - for instance, father talking to the son and narrating him a story on STD - we were showing the advantage that you can talk across big distance without big expenditures.
In this category it is known as the death of distance. We started off with that and as an underlying thought we are continuing with that. Taking a step ahead, the RIM brand is now moving on to being an enabler, connecting people and businesses across India in a manner to bring about 'joy'.
Q. So 'joy' is going to be an important part your brand communication now?
Precisely. We have developed sort of mascot - a bundle of joy that would introduce you to the joys of RIM - Reliance India Mobile. A feeling and experience shared by a family of Reliance India Mobile users. It is a joy that they experience when they encounter world class technology and services at a surprisingly low price. And based on this, we have created something that we would like to believe, would be long term.
Q. Would it be used on a long term basis?
It has the ability to become endearing and enduring as a kind of mascot. It has the quality that can go down to mugs, T-shirts and key chains and so on and so forth. And this icon of satisfaction, we want to wear as a part of our brand communication.
Q. Reliance India Mobile recently launched a new television campaignâ€¦
In fact we have a new campaign for print and TV. I would first tell you about the TV campaign. There are two films of one minute each; basically they are two different edits of the same film.
Bharat Bala Productions has created these commercials. It has taken us almost six months from conception to completion. In terms of execution, it has taken us three months. They have traveled through the country and shot images of India using RIM. The faces are not models, they have been chosen in each local market - and so obviously they look authentic and reflect that region.
This is a big project, which started with Ms Neeta Ambani. She was personally involved along with the creative team and worked very closely with them.
In our film we are still talking to the heart - it is a very emotive film. We have captured in the audio the very central thought of wedding - wedding calls for communication - wedding calls for invitation, wedding calls for happiness.
What we wish to convey is that it is all about moments of happiness. In a way we have tried to tie the whole country together in a certain spirit of joy. And it would, we hope, tell the customers - existing as well as future, what to expect out of Reliance India Mobile - the brand.
Q. Is print campaign different from the TV commercial?
On the print side, we have a campaign that is very rational, though it still captures the spirit of joy. Different ads talk about different features that enhance the Reliance India Mobile customers' joy. These include joy of saving due to extremely affordable package, joy of coverage, joy of clarity - everyone is talking about it. Side by side we are also talking about colour. We realise that though we have huge number of people using black and white handsets, there are colour handsets as well, and once you start using colour handsets, joy of using R World - the backend we have created, is tremendous. It is like carrying a television in your hand, it is a spectacular experience.
Q. Any specific reasons to bring about this change in the campaign?
There is no change. Earlier campaign was tactical it focused on numbers for value for a money offer. Now we need to move on. Time is now right to talk about the brand and what it stands for.
Today we have taken our learnings and insights and put them in our communication. At the same time we believe that it is a brand that would evolve as the customer sees it. You must realise that implications of saying joys of RIM are huge on a service brand. Because the moment we say "Joys of RIM", we have to live up to the expectations of every customer. That is the challenge that we are creating internally. And that is therefore the long-term platform on which we can build this campaign.
Q. You are planning to go to other languages as well?
Yes, it will be pan Indian. As you might have noticed, we have not been dependent on English in our campaigns. We don't have a baseline in English that says kar lo duniya muthi mein. It's Hindi or its regional adaptation. You would see this brand campaign also in every regional language where we are operating.
Q. What sort of media budgets are you planning for the new campaign?
We don't talk about media budgets. I will give you an indicator - I think we have maintained almost double the share of voice of our closest competition. I would like to believe that we would continue with that trend for sometime, because we wish to dominate the medium.
Q. If I talk of male: female ratio. Do you think a lot of women are using mobiles now, and would you carry campaigns in publications targeted at them?
We will target them as well. Today I don't think mobiles are seen as only meant for men. It is for everybody and anybody - it is a matter of convenience.
Today we have come to a point where, mainly because of Reliance, mobile is not actually a luxury item, it is a utility item.
We believe that as we move along and start segmenting the market - we would create newer products that would specifically talk to a housewife or working woman in comparison to a male executive per se, whose needs would be different. But at this point in time we don't have that segmentation in place.
Q. At what rate do you see RIM growing?
It is very difficult to state. We are growing very rapidly, and we are obviously creating history in terms of numbers. If you look at recent phenomenon in terms of numbers - we have added people to the tune of a lakh or more a day. We have activated a lakh and fifty phones in one day, which might be unique in any part of the world. Numbers are mind boggling but we do not know at what rate we would be growing till what stage.
Q. Moving on to another P, there is a lot of talk about hidden costs as far as mobile networks are concerned. What is your take on that?
Our competitors are today facing a tremendous threat from RIM. Therefore, they have resorted to unfair and unethical tactics. They have been distributing enormous letters, e-mails and SMS messages but 2.5 million customers are no fools. If they have taken our service, they would have taken on with their eyes open after reading the application form, which is absolutely clear. Talking about hidden cost, I have been a GSM mobile user since the time of its inception in the country but I am still surprised with every bill that I get - so much for hidden cost!
Q. Moving on to placements, a lot of Reliance Kiosks are seen on the road corners, shopping malls and outside railway stations in Mumbai. Are they doing well?
Oh, they are working very well. People have this impression that Reliance is very affordable, it is very cheap. That is true - that has been our mission statement. One of the challenges, however, we believe, is that our potential customers must understand that the real differentiator is that we have a technology that is far superior. We are a multimedia phone that provides data. Data is driving the market all over the world. We are offering a number of value additions, and these demonstrations at kiosks are very critical. These kiosks are serving that purpose very well. When you show people the whole package that we have today, they are very impressed. And more we demonstrate, more we are able to convert.
Q. The last question, HLL order is indeed large. Are there any other corporates talking to you?
In fact, that there are a number of corporates talking to us. Some of them are placing very large orders. We believe that it is a very significant change. These are the corporates who waited, watched and are now convinced that RIM is worth taking and, hence, they are making that switch.
One of the other testimonies we have today is that in spite of adding on huge numbers, our network has come through without a glitch. Our competitors might have been waiting to see how the network takes the load. Well, we have disappointed them!