The Financial Year 2018-19 was another eventful year for the telecom industry. In addition to the unprecedented consolidation, we saw a major shift in consumer behavior. The role of telecom companies is no longer restricted to just providing the “pipe” and the right price plan. It is now about creating an ecosystem of digital services (music, content, payments and much more) and leveraging data, network, and distribution assets to deliver these services. Airtel has been at the forefront of this industry transformation from both lenses – digital innovation as well as strengthening our core connectivity proposition.
As part of digital innovation – we launched ‘#airtelThanks’, a first of its kind rewards program for our premium customers. It offers a host of exclusive benefits such as premium content, handset protection, gift cards etc.
This program has been at the heart of our upgrade strategy and has been powered by our partnerships with leading brands across the globe. We further strengthened our own digital assets - ‘Airtel TV’ & ‘Wynk Music’ and launched ‘Airtel Books’ with more than 70,000 e-books from leading publications. All of these programs are backed by a 360 degree view of our customers – enabled by our Innovation Lab (X Labs), which dedicatedly focuses on next-gen technologies and harnesses power of our data.
In parallel, we continue to strengthen our core connectivity offering with differentiated focus on 4G. More than 15,000 new towers and 120,000 mobile broadband base-stations were deployed last year to expand our 4G footprint and fulfill capacity requirements. Airtel has been recognized as the fastest network by independent global agencies for 3 quarters in a row. Further, to improve indoor coverage, we are re-farming 900 band for LTE across 10 circles. We have also launched our VoLTE services across India, to help enhance voice quality.
As we look ahead, we continue to remain excited about the massive opportunity in India. With only three private operators serving 1.3 Billion people and significant 4G penetration upside, the industry is poised for sustained long term growth. Airtel is well positioned to serve this growth. Even in the most turbulent times, we have held our market share. We have a simple strategy – go after quality customers and offer them a brilliant network experience.
Quality Customers – We will leverage ‘#airtelThanks’ to build greater value for our customers and offer differentiated services (content, financial services and network experience) to our premium customers. This will be the key to our premiumisation strategy and will help drive up ARPU. On the non-wireless front, we will focus on serving the digital needs of a Home and aspire to take a decisive lead in convergence and triple play across content, speed and mobile. In B2B, we will focus disproportionately on growing our core connectivity business and at the same time build new products/verticals including Security, Data Centers and Cloud.
Brilliant Network Experience – We remain obsessed with network quality and have shifted our focus from Speed to Experience. Instead of Speed, we are focusing on solving for the right use cases for our customer segments – be it Gaming, Video or Payments. In line with our strategy to focus on quality customers, we will build capacity only where it matters. We will deploy smart, low cost equipment to densify our network and sweat the existing spectrum. Simultaneously, we will build a solid back haul through the massive investments that have already been made.
Services at scale: We will continue to grow our digital services (Airtel TV, Wynk, Books, Payments etc.) and combine them into a single consumer app that enables sampling of these services - ‘#airtelThanks’. We will use our deep customer understanding and data to drive adoption and distribute it through ‘Mitra’ (our offline sales system app).
Micro-marketing: We will continue to de-average our business at District/Tehsil level to take focused offline GTM actions. We will simultaneously grow the online channel by simplifying our product flows and integrating with third party platforms.
Simplify: Our goal is to raise the bar on customer experience by being an open, highly responsive and transparent telco for our customers. We will achieve this by brutally simplifying our business and processes.
War on Waste: We will deploy smartly in key districts, adopt disruptive solutions and share infrastructure.
Partnerships: This is core to Airtel culture - we aspire to be the best partner in the ecosystem. We will invest in building a digital layer to enable easy and quick integration and drive mutual growth with partners.
Finally, and most importantly – our People. We are committed to ensuring growth of our talent. We have simplified our organization structure to offer large and meaningful roles to all employees. We have invested heavily in Digital talent including Product, Engineering and Data Science. We are institutionalizing agile ways of working at Airtel, given that this will be key to success in the new telecom age. Going forward the war for relevance will be fought through the lens of war for talent. Attracting the best people and retaining them will be ever more important.
As an organization, we continue to be committed to sustainable and inclusive growth. Our Integrated Report spells out our initiatives for environment sustainability and community development. Bharti Foundation has been doing remarkable work to spread awareness about education and empowerment of girl child.
As we move ahead, 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.