Aircel Takes Over Jammu, Eyes Kashmir

KL Report

Srinagar

Aircel Executives addressing Media in Srinagar Photo By: Bilal Bahadur

Dishnet Wireless that owns the Aircel brand is the market leader in Jammu region and has fast forwarded efforts to take over Kashmir. Right now it is playing second fiddle to the Airtel that leads the seven cell phone service operators in J&K.

“We are growing at a better pace,” Sundeep Talwar, Aircel’s J&K Circle head told a select group of reporters in Srinagar. “Compared to the last quarter when we had 29% market share, we now have 34% market share in the state which is impressive as we are gaining better than the competition.”

 By the end of October when J&K had 5983795 mobile users, Aircel was at number two position with 1770577 subscribers making it 29.58 percent. Aircel says the market share is improved. “From this subscriber base 53% is in Jammu and 47% is in Kashmir,” Talwar said. That is perhaps why most of the 350 employees on its rolls in the state are based at Jammu.

Aircel has an overall investment in the state at Rs 650 crore. It has 270 BTSs and 95 additional towers are being installed this year. Besides, it has 300 2G towers as infrastructure is being upgraded to manage the 3G clientele.

Talwar said Kashmir is one of the best markets to work with. “When I shifted from Bihar to J&K, many friends informed me about the difficulty in working Kashmir,” Talwar said. “But in the last few months I am working in Kashmir, I believe it is better than Bihar. Even Jammu is difficult than Kashmir.” This, however, excludes the government interventions that make operators to work more efficiently and adhere to additional conditions. “Though we require 37 permissions to raise a BTS but we are complying with everything what the system decides for the larger good,” he insisted adding that in other states the number of permissions might be comparatively less.

Aircel interaction with media was aimed at showcasing its new offer to the J&K market. It is offering new iPhone-5 with a promise that a client will make a net saving of Rs 21000 a year on data usage and other offering. “It is good market,” Talwar said. “Last time when we offered iPhone-4S we got 223 booking within initial 48 hours. This time, though, we have not set any targets.” J&K market is using almost 20% of smart phone indicating the improvement in the handsets people use. Right now, Aircel is offering 3G services in Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Jammu and in this year the number of 3G towns is increasing. “We have south Kashmir as a priority for improving overall service,” Talwar said.

Asked about the ban on SMS, Aircel executives including its Corporate Communications head Sabiana Anandraj said the onus lies with the government. For the operators, they said, it is a huge revenue opportunity as people who would have managed it by an SMS need to make a call which is costly.

Aircel team said J&K is a major and promising market and their Malaysian company that actually owns the Aircel is always seeking details about the customer satisfaction in Kashmir. They said the company is making certain efforts in the state under CSR and has already adopted some schools in Leh and Jammu. Some orphanages are also being take care of in Kashmir, they said. They admitted talkative Kashmiris offer better revenue to every operators including Aircel.

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