Archive for November, 2011
The much-awaited and talked about Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was introduced in India in January 2011. It was forecast to be a major game changer in the field of mobile telephony, predicted to create chaos in the industry, cause extensive migration from poor service providers to the good ones and hence wean out the underperformers. It was also meant to bring the focus back on to the customer and force service providers to provide topmost quality and service.
But has it really been a game-changer? Has there been that quantum of migration predicted originally? Industry experts had originally predicted that 10% of the mobile users would opt for MNP within the first year. Over the first 3/4th of the year, only 2% (about 181 lac users out of a base of ~8500 lac users) have opted for MNP.
What’s been the outcome of MNP – has the migration been uni-directional or multi-directional? Has it really proved that some providers are the winners and caused those who weren’t at the top of the game to fall out?
Sure, there have been some clear losers – all CDMA players lost customers to GSM players (Note: both Tata Tele and Reliance have their GSM networks too) mainly due to poor connectivity and lack of handset options in CDMA. (Reliance also lost from their GSM base due to poor connectivity and service).
Has it really brought the focus back on the customer? Has it been the case where only the originally better performers have by-default gained from the obvious underperformers but not made any improvements themselves? Clearly, there has also been a need for improvement even in the case of the key gainers, because even they’ve seen significant port-out activity from their customer base.
MNP might end up being a factor that ensures that service levels of any brand do not fall below a minimum threshold, in that sense it may yet benefit a consumer. But does this mean that the service providers hover around the minimum threshold, or should they march full force ahead to offer top-quality standards and stand to gain a lot more. They sure would get me that way!
So sure, MNP is an enabler, and a powerful one; but a game-changer – I think not! At least, not yet!
April 2004: A friend returned after spending almost a decade in the U.S. Of course, the initial adjustment wasn’t easy and a thousand small irritants drove him up the wall – lack of respect for punctuality, lack of civic sense, hygiene etc. From a consumer’s perspective, he also found that some businesses here weren’t as conscious about consumer satisfaction as he would have liked, among these the network providers that (he felt) took advantage of consumers that were tied to a network due to the lack of number portability. I remember him cursing the service provider and fervently wishing for number portability many times.
January 2011: Happy New Year! We finally have number portability.
But did this friend switch ? What do you think ?
Jan 2011: My dad was thrilled that he could now switch from Idea to another service provider without changing his number because he wasn’t happy about their blackberry services. He chose to switch to Vodafone. He inquired about the procedure within the first month and realized that it was a cumbersome procedure and took too long to process.
They told him it’d get activated in 2 months. 2 months!!! What was he supposed to do – have no mobile service for 2 months? Would he be allowed to be on Idea network till the Vodafone one got activated? No clue – neither party had any answer. Also, he was required to have zero credit with the current provider to be able to port – in theory this makes complete sense – but how could this be the case? Unless on Jan 31 2011, he paid off the bill for Idea, and had a working Vodafone connection on Feb 1– there was no way he could have zero credit with Idea (because there was no way he was going to be without any mobile service even for a day, leave alone a couple of months! That is just way too much to ask in this day and age). He inquired about how this would be possible – and again they had no answer!
Today: So, disappointed, he stuck to his Idea connection, and continues on in life, with MNP having made no change in his life. Bummer!
Nov 2010: I’m a Vodafone user since the last 5 years. If I was asked in Nov 2010 whether I’d want to change my service provider, given number portability – I’d have said no, because I was happy with the connectivity and customer service then.
Nov 2011: If you ask me in Nov 2011 whether I’d want to change my service provider – I’d still say no, not because I am happy with the connectivity and network coverage anymore – but because I’ve come to believe that all other providers are equally good or bad. I have Airtel, Idea and Loop Mobile users within my home and none are happy with the connectivity and coverage either. (I take their opinion because we live, work, travel to and from the same routes and areas – and therefore find that their usage experience is applicable to me).
So even though number portability provides the means to address my dissatisfaction, lack of better service from other providers is stopping me from making the change.
Back in January 2011, we’d also written about this in our post on Flash Sales – Who is Buying.
The bottled water business can be broadly divided into natural mineral water, pure spring water, purified water, sparkling water and enhanced water. The bottled water market in the western world is at a mature stage and the category is constantly innovating and evolving.
Globally, one of the newest and fastest-growing types of specialty water on the market is enhanced water, which is spring water that’s fortified with “healthy” ingredients such as oxygen, nutrients, herbs, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and, in some cases, stimulants like ginseng and caffeine.
The creator and leader of this segment is Glacéau, a US based beverage-maker – it first introduced an electrolyte enhanced line of water called Smartwater in 1996, followed by Fruitwater in 1998 and Vitaminwater in 2000 in the US. The Glacéau line of waters was initially only introduced in the New York City area and only in 2002 did it gain popularity and started distribution across the United States. Over time, Fruitwater was phased out from the market and Vitaminwater is now their most popular product with multiple variants of flavors and nutrients.
It was the first to catch on to the health wave and introduced several variants each with its own benefits – and put this forth in the most eye-catching manner. It created different combinations for benefits such as Endurance, Energy, Focus, Revive, Power-C (vit C), Triple-X (triple antioxidants), Defense, etc. in vibrant colors, attractive packaging and fun and funny labeling.
In 2007, Coca-Cola bought over the company. Glacéau gave Coca-Cola an instant foothold in this fast-growing niche, while the brand benefited from Coca-Cola’s considerable distribution and marketing muscle.
I noticed it on my trip to the US this summer – there were Vitaminwater vending machines everywhere, everywhere one would traditionally find vending machines for snacks, confectionary and soda. Last when I was there in 2006, they were only available in specialty grocery stores, health stores and college campuses. Earlier it was promoted through vehicle marketing program, sampling program, banners & posters, and ‘Campus Ambassadors,’ a college outreach program but the new marketing campaigns include celebrities, hip-hop singers, NBA stars, popular graffiti artists, etc.
Given the increased weight & calorie-consciousness in the US, Vitaminwater also came out with Vitaminwater 10 variant – targeting the weight conscious with their 10 calorie offering (down from the original 50 calories) which was then replaced with Vitaminwater Zero in 2010. Vitaminwater Zero sales in its first year of sales reached US $110.3 million.
In comparison to mature western markets, is the Indian market ready for enhanced water yet? The per capita bottled water consumption is still quite low – estimates vary from 0.5 liters to 5 liters a year as compared to the global average of 24 liters. However, the total annual bottled water consumption has risen rapidly in recent times – tripling between 1999 and 2004 – from about 1.5 billion liters to five billion liters. And currently the industry is growing at the rate of 45%. Although premium water constitutes only 10% of the bottled water market, gearing up for the uptrend in the market, Bisleri plans to introduce its range of flavored waters shortly. PepsiCo is also considering the possibility of introducing flavored water in the Indian market given the consumer’s increasing discomfort with carbonated drinks.
We shall wait and watch…