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Hutch still in command

Calcutta, April 14: If preferences translated into subscribers, AirTel has a lot of ground to cover to gain the top slot in the city. With Command donning the international cloak of Hutch, it has worked upon its strengths to maintain the lead in the Calcutta circle. BSNL has also gained new ground and is consistently increasing its subscriber count.

An IMRB study was carried out in four phases from December 2002 to March 2003 that covered 200 existing customers and 50 intending users of mobile services.

According to COAI statistics, Hutch has risen from 26,3068 subscribers in February to 27,4281 subscribers in March, while AirTel has dropped from 20,4213 subscribers in February to 20,0736 in March. BSNL has gained from 17,277 subscribers in February to 19,159 in March.

The IMRB study reveals that the customer gives top priority to the quality of network provided by the operator. While the perceived network quality of AirTel has remained stagnant at 5 points on a scale of 7, Hutch has seen a rise from 5.6 to 5.8.

Bharti Cellular chief executive officer Deepak Gulati said: “I am not aware of the survey. However, we have invested over Rs 30 crore in the last two months to upgrade our network and make it future-proof. AirTel is the only operator ready with the backbone to provide quality service in future.” AirTel has 200 cell sites.

Sunil Sood, chief operating officer of Hutchison Telecom East, said: “Hutch, with 220 sites, has always delivered high network quality, which has resulted in better voice quality and coverage. This has made us the preferred operator among both current and intending users.”

Customers also feel that Hutch offers more value for money with a score of 5.1 against AirTel’s 4.8 and BSNL’s 4.

AirTel was a gainer on the advertisement front until the ‘Hi Hutch’ campaign hit the city. While Hutch gained from Command’s score of 5 to 5.5, AirTel dropped from 5.8 to 5.2. BSNL gained from its national campaign and scored 3.6.

“The simple ‘Hi’ launch campaign, followed by aspirational and benefit-centric communication has led to a tremendous jump in ad awareness. It has made Hutch the most salient and sought after brand,” adds Sood.

According to Gulati, “Whenever there is a brand launch, the brand recall goes up. While Hutch was launched in December, Reliance made an entry in January. This has resulted in AirTel losing out on the ad appeal front.”

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