It struck me odd this afternoon when I saw the banner. Am I reading Gujarati correctly? Translated it is a life prepaid idea connection at Rs 5, and for Rs 10 you get the sim card free and the rest goes as talktime. Can it be real? I wondered. I decided to enquire at the shop. Well, it is an offer that had a ‘till stocks last’ clause, and they were then available for Rs 23! I went back to office, and my colleague amused me with an sms that mentioned an Airtel offer of a prepaid connection free of cost. Recession couldn’t get any graver than this.

The trends signify something deep: the penetration of mobile in our country and the rate at which telcos are luring customers to get connected. Was it long ago when being mobile was a fantasy? And that one had to shell out a lot of money just to receive calls. We’ve come a long way since then, but at this stage, where are we going?

I was wondering about the strategies of the telcos. It is evident that the mobile subscribers added per month do not show an increasing trend. Today most people are connected in multiple ways. Procuring packaged sim cards, managing their SIM and subscriber numbers, and the supply chain of taking these to the customer involves a lot of cost, which incidentally would be borne by the telcos. Giving away these for free for lifetime prepaid kind of connection implies you are allowed to be connected for free, by virtue of being an Indian citizen. Now, the customer is normally in the bottom of the pyramid where the ARPU will be as low as Rs 50-100 per month. Given that the service providers have covered the capital expenditures, this revenue might come out to be fairly decent. Of course, I need to get deeper into the cost structure to come to any conclusion.

It is good news for india, but it will also encourage misuse. One can buy a sim card and use it for making hoax calls or disturbing others, especially women. Companies need to be more stringent in their enforcement strategies, and government must take a call to punish those misusing the cheap technology.

I wonder why the handset leader Nokia has not brought out dual sim phones yet. May be they haven’t focused on the india specific strategy, but for sure they will find a lot of acceptance!

Post this afternoon, I was left wondering why I bought a Vodafone lifetime prepaid sim for 99 INR!

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