Faced with growing consolidation in the telecom space and a falling customer base, Bharti Airtel is focussing on both, user retention and acquisition of new subscribers. The company is not just leaning on tariff wars and content on its platform to achieve this end, but is overarching itself to “improve its relationship with its customers” by providing them with superior experience at its retail stores.
As on September 2018, Bharti Airtel had a customer base of over 444 million across its operations, which declined by 9.23 per cent at 403 customers by the end of December 2018.
The country’s largest telecom service provider has come up with 100 next-gen stores nationwide, to offer customers a digitally enhanced experience. Its preferred users can have access to faster and superior service quality at these stores. Bharti Airtel has also been transforming its previous store formats into this next-gen variant.
The company has 500 own stores and another 1,500-2,000 franchisee outlets, which it intends to transform into the new variant under its 'Project Next' initiative. The firm intends to invest around Rs 2,000 crore under this digital transformation plan, which was launched in 2017.
Responding to a query from Business Standard on whether such enhanced experience stems from the company losing its customer base, Vir Inder Nath, CEO–Retail at Bharti Airtel said, “This is part of both retention as well as new acquisition strategy. It (Next-Gen stores) will improve our existing relationship with a customer as well as help us get new customers”.
These stores have been conceptualised by UK-based 8 Inc, which is credited with designing the Apple stores as well.
Fifty more company-owned outlets are likely to switch to the new variant in the next 2-3 fiscal quarters, after which the company will be transforming its franchisee stores into the superior digital variant.
“We will work on how the franchisee stores will be transformed and what kind of investments from our side it will entail,” Nath said.
Although the firm had launched a mobile app that offers users a host of services such as bill payments, recharges, special offers, access to its multimedia platform and services for DTH business, Nath said a large part of the customers still prefer the brick-and-mortar model.
“After a customer visits a Next-Gen store, he or she will be far more digitally enabled,” he said, adding that on an average such stores have 3,0000 footfalls a month.
Out of its total customer base, postpaid connections comprise 10 per cent of the total connections while the rest are prepaid.