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Now, telecom majors focus on rural sector

The Times of India:  June 18, 2008

Bangalore: It's the rural market that's the next big thing for wireless telecom providers. With only 22% of rural subscribers in the country as on December 31, 2007, there is seen to be huge potential for mobile phone penetration in rural India.

In Karnataka there are 17 million mobile users, out of which rural mobile users is just 5 million, accounting for just 13% of penetration. "We want to take the network to the grassroot level. We are looking at 20% penetration from 13% in the rural parts of Karnataka in a year's time," says Venkatesh V, CEO (mobile services), Bharti Airtel, Karnataka. Most telecom providers are launching customized, affordable and attractive products and services. On Tuesday, Airtel, in partnership with Nokia, launched handsets with the keypad and phone menu in Kannada. The monochrome handset is available at as low as Rs 1,272, and the colour handset at Rs 1,560.

Soon Spice Telecom will be launching local mandi rates for commodities across Karnataka. "Localized content helps to connect with rural customers. We see 70% of downloads happening in the Kannada language. To build that customer segment we have SMS services in 12 local languages through an option called local lingo," said Errol Dale Pinto, GM (business strategy), Spice Telecom.

Spice has localized contents available in Punjabi and Kannada. Airtel has tied up with IFFCO to reach farmers directly. Through this tie up farmers would receive free voice messages twice daily on farming techniques, weather forecasts, dairy farming, rural health initiatives, fertilizer availability, loan information and market rates. In addition, farmers can also call a dedicated helpline, manned by experts from various fields, to get answers to their queries.

"Information like these will help farmers plan their cultivation services and will guide them where to sell their products," said Govindrajan, head, south India, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO).Reliance Communications has launched a specialized service called gramada phone scheme in Karnataka.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.