Friday, March 27, 2009

The Beginning of the End

Prophetic as it may seem, the official launch of Sistema-Shyam's mobile service in India, under the MTS brand, indeed appears to portend the beginning of a slowdown in the great Indian mobile story that has thus far been steaming ahead. With Sistema being the first of five new entrants to get off the ground, along with expansion from incumbents, the word competition just got a whole new meaning. Also, with the subscriber base likely to rise strongly over the next two years, and slowing down therefrom, the battle for top-line and bottom-line growth is only likely to get more intense, pushing back payback periods. 

Sistema appears to have recognized the new imperatives of the market and the impact that it is likely to have. Their break-even, which they have hinted at seven years, suggests the same. More than the increase in competition, it will be interesting to see how some of these global majors bring their expertise and strategies into the Indian market. MTS has been following a micro-segmentation strategy of its consumers based on demographic and behavioral patterns, and to add, with reasonably strong success. Operators in India, have thus far been using one-size-fits-all solutions. With it's low cost and segmented strategy, it will be quite interesting to see the strategy that MTS adopts and incumbent operator response to it. Early indicators of MTS' strategy appear to be seen in the variety of special value vouchers that it has already launched. Likewise, it will also be interesting to see how Telenor, with its GSM focus and strong experience in other emerging markets, plays out in the Indian context. Moving beyond current land-grab strategies will prove the litmus test for incumbents, and new entrants sure will play their part in playing spoilsport for the incumbents.
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