The launch of the Reliance Jio service back in September 2016 was a real game changer for the Indian telecom industry. Backed by the immense financial muscle and infrastructure of Reliance Communications, Jio has metaphorically set the cat among the pigeons. India’s incumbent service providers are now all scrambling to keep up with an increasingly volatile industry. Whether the business strategy of Reliance Jio has been beneficial or harmful is debatable, but one thing is certain – Reliance Jio means business.
More than a month ago, Dazeinfo reported on the immense early success achieved by Jio. In a record time, the number of Reliance Jio subscribers clocked 100 million. They also became the largest data carrier in the world by the end of 2016, primarily due to video consumption on Jio network.
But, not everything was settled down. The next big challenge for Jio was to convert its free users into paying ones.
Reliance’s Strategy Sabotaged By Competitors
Amid much fanfare and hype, Reliance announced their Jio Prime membership offer which would take effect 31 March 2017. We previously outlined the details of this subscription model. The offer provided unprecedented value, with free calls and text messages and unlimited data with a FUP of 1GB/day. All this for a mere Rs. 303 per month. The public response to this announcement was tremendous, with soaring market share of Jio, while competitor’s shares depreciated.
However, things have not gone so smoothly for Jio since. Reliance’s subsequent decision to extend free services for three more months for subscribers of the Rs. 303 plan under the new “Summer Surprise” offer did not go down well with their competitors. Vodafone filed an official complaint to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority India) requesting to halt Jio’s Summer Surprise offer. TRAI obliged, and the plan was withdrawn. Since then, Jio has hit back with its new “Dhan Dhana Dhan” offer, which offers free calls and text messages and 1 GB of data per day for three months with a recharge of Rs. 309.
However, this was not enough to satisfy Airtel, who have approached TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal) alleging delays and shady practices by Jio regarding the withdrawal of the Summer Surprise offer.
Airtel has also objected to Jio’s new offer, claiming “It violates the spirit of the TRAI directive and essentially continues with a similar plan now masquerading under a different name”.
Accusations, Complaints And Bickering
For months now incumbent telecom providers have been at war with Jio. They filed complaints with TRAI alleging “unfair business practices”. Jio replied in kind, accusing Airtel, Vodafone and Idea of violating licensing norms. Jio also accused them of violating extant telecom laws including the Telecom Tariff Order of 1999.
Airtel countered by filing a complaint with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) accusing Reliance of employing underhand tactics to create a monopoly in the Industry. This war has also spilt over to social media and Twitter, with Reliance publicly converting Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma to a Jio user.
There was also the incident regarding who gets the title of “India’s fastest network”. It ended with Airtel having to withdraw their ads claiming to be the fastest network in India.
The New Plans And Tariffs
Most of India’s leading telecom provider have come up with new plans in order to counter Jio:-
- Bharti Airtel – With 23.58% of the market share, they remain the largest telecom provider in India. Airtel has come up with a plan that offers 1GB data per day, 300 minutes of Airtel-to-Airtel calls per day and 3000 minutes of Local/STD calls for 70 days. This plan does not include free text messages and will cost Rs. 399. One caveat here is that the 1GB data allowance is divided into 500MB quotas for night and day separately. They also have an alternate plan for Rs 345 that offers 2GB data per day and get rids of day/night quotas. However, this plan has reduced validity for 28 days.
- Reliance Jio – Jio is relatively new to the scene, yet it is growing at a tremendous rate and has already claimed 6.40% of the market share. Under the new Dhan Dhana Dhan offer, users avail free calls and text messages and 1 GB of data per day for three months with a recharge of Rs. 309. The advantage this offer has over competitors is that it places no restrictions on call minutes and also offers free text messaging. It is also valid for 84 days, which is greater than any of their competitors.
- Vodafone – With 18.16% market share at the end of Q4 2016, Vodafone remains one of India’s biggest players, nipping at the heels of Airtel. They have offered a plan with 1GB data per day, 300 Local/STD minutes per day. This plan will also not include free messages and is priced at Rs 352 for a 28 day validity period.
- Idea Cellular – Idea Cellular commands 16.90% of the market share, just behind Vodafone. They have also come up with their own plan offering 1 GB data and 300 Local/STD minutes per day and unlimited Idea-to-Idea calls. This plan also does not include free messages and is priced at Rs. 297 for a 70 day validity period. Alternatively, they are also offering a second plan which extends the call minutes cap to 3000 and is priced at Rs 447.
- Reliance has replaced its Summer Surprise offer with the new Dhan Dhana Dhan offer in compliance with TRAI directives.
- There is a deep animosity developing between Jio and other incumbent telecom providers in India, with multiple complaints being lodged by both parties.
- To compete with Jio, India’s major telecom providers have all come up with enticing plans to lure customers.
- 60% of Jio subscribers signed up for its Prime membership. This is quite a bit more than previous estimates as Jio continues to exceed expectations.