The FY 2017-18 was a transformational year for the telecom industry. Because of the brutal price war, there was an unprecedented consolidation from 8 operators to only 3 private operators in the market. This price war also led to a rapid shift in consumer behavior from voice to entertainment that led to explosion of data usage and ultimately, massive network investments. Airtel continued to make robust investments despite eroding profitability in order to stay in the leadership position. Even during this turbulent period, Airtel maintained its leadership position and remained focused on its vision to win customers for life. Our brand continued to remain in a strong position winning several accolades including the ‘Buzziest Brand’ award in telecom category. All of this was enabled through solid execution across all the pillars of our GPS.
To grow share of high ARPU customers, we focussed on i) grabbing increased share of 4G devices through alliances & simplified pricing, ii) driving data consumption through intense focus on sim consolidation led by bundled pricing plans and iii) Pehla Smartphone’ program was a major initiative where we stitched alliances with several handset OEMs across all price bands to offer cashback options to customers purchasing a new smartphone bundled with Airtel. Further, ‘Airtel Online Store’ went live with Apple and Samsung devices to sell them with financing options to customers. The Postpaid business was completely revamped with innovative propositions to offer more value to the customers (e.g. handset security, free music & TV, free Amazon prime membership etc.) beyond the traditional services.
As part of the project ‘Next’ program, we introduced the ‘data roll over’ functionality for postpaid customers.
To improve customer stickiness by offering them more products & services, we focused on cross selling our portfolio of telco products and gaining adoption of our digital services. A dedicated ‘Homes’ channel was set-up to sell postpaid and DTH connections to our existing broadband customers. Airtel TV was rejuvenated with a rich content library of live channels, movies, premium OTT content etc., which enabled it to garner 25Mn+ active users. Wynk music became India’s #1 app in terms of consumption. On the B2B side, we did a strategic partnership with Symantec to offer cyber security solutions to corporate and government organizations.
Delivering brilliant customer experience continued to be our key priority. We made heavy investments in network, the core of our business. A record 110,000 mobile sites were rolled out in the last year to expand our 4G footprint across the country. We created a strategic partnership with SK Telecom to leverage its expertize in improving network experience and create a future ready network. To enrich voice calling experience, we launched VoLTE. Re-engineering and digitization of customer care processes were completed to offer better resolution to customer queries. We also launched next generation ‘digital’ stores in marquee locations to enhance customer experience in our stores.
While the mobility business was under competitive pricing pressure, acceleration in non-wireless businesses played a strong role in driving the growth of the company. Broadband business was completely re-launched with first of its kind propositions like data roll-over, data borrow from postpaid mobile etc. DTH and B2B business registered healthy double digit topline growth with strong margins on the back of simplified pricing and aggressive Go-to market initiatives.
We continued our emphasis on identifying and stripping out waste from our business through process redesign and automation. This is demonstrated by the fact that we delivered a decline in operating expenditures last year.
Finally, we remain committed to ensure growth & well-being of our people, the most valuable asset of our Company. We have constantly striven to be amongst the preferred places to work for the smartest in the industry. This year, Airtel was ranked 10th ‘Best Company to Work for’ across all companies and the best employer in Telecom in India.
As an organization we continue to be committed to sustainable and inclusive growth. Our Sustainability Report spells out our initiatives for environment sustainability. Bharti Foundation, with full support from our employees, has been doing remarkable work in engaging parents and the community to spread awareness about education and empowerment of girl child. These initiatives have made our corporate citizenship more meaningful.
As we look ahead, we remain excited about the massive opportunity in India. With three large private operators serving 1.3 Bn people, the industry is poised for sustained long term growth. While there will be pricing pressure in the short term, the long term remains promising. We believe your company is well poised to exploit this future. With massive investments, an iconic brand, and a team that is obsessed about serving customers we are confident that Airtel will remain a force to reckon with.
As we enter a new era of telecom industry in the country, I would like to thank our customers, our people, our partners and our shareholders for their support and faith in us. We seek your continued guidance in our journey.