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Monsoon war of the mobiles

The mobile war in the city is hotting up, with two major private cellphone operators joining the fray to combat Reliance Infocomm’s pocket-friendly Monsoon Hungama offer.

Both Hutch and Bharti, though trailing behind Reliance in selling new connections, are gearing up with a slew of offers to offset the impact of the Monsoon scheme.

With this, the market is entering its most decisive phase and could be looking at a “very exciting” growth rate in the next few months, say city-based retailers and dealers.

Reliance, which has sold more than 104,000 connections in the past three months, claims to have mopped up five-lakh mobile customers across the country in the first five days of the Hungama scheme launch.

Hutch is not far behind, with “around 30,000 new connections in June itself,” according to chief operating officer Sunil Sood. The figure for April and May would be similar, other Hutch officials asserted, adding that the quarterly figure for new connections would stand close to the one-lakh mark.

Bharti Mobitel, selling slightly more than 30,000 Airtel connections in the past three months, is catching up, too, say company spokespersons. “Reliance subscribers are paying a little more than our customers do after the low entry-point price,” a Bharti official said. “The ‘hungama’ is going to be a short-lived affair, once Calcuttans compare the plans,” he added.

Though both Airtel and Hutch officials say they do not want to match the Monsoon Hungama offer — of a mobile connection and a handset on an initial payment of Rs 501 — they promise their customers have several surprises to look forward to. Bharti, for instance, is giving a fresh Airtel connection and a handset at Rs 2,999 (for a Motorola set), or Rs 3,315 (for a Nokia set).

Hutch, on the other hand, is giving new connections plus handsets at Rs 4,500 flat. As part of the plans to counter Reliance, Hutch has also introduced a roaming service that can be recharged — via SMS or the Internet — outside Calcutta.

“We have easy-pay options for our customers,” a Hutch spokesperson said. “But we want to make sure that the people who use our services can pay us back,” he added, expressing his scepticism at some of the Hutch rivals’ ability to recover money from their customers.

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