Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dual Sim Phones: Why Biggies Are Not Interested?

Mobile services were launched in India in 1996. For a long time thereafter, the mobile subscriber base kept low. Mobile phones were a desirable object. Very expensive to maintain. Even if someone had a mobile, the usage was limited to using it as a number identification device. Even receiving calls meant huge outgo.

My first 'brick' Motorola mobile phone was handed over to me by my colleagues who did not want to hurt their arms. Now those were the days when I neither had a mobile phone nor a girlfriend. Since I couldn't do much about acquiring a girl friend, I quickly grabbed the opportunity to get connected. But despite the connection, I avoided making calls, forget receiving calls. But yes messaging was free then.
Then things changed; quite fast they changed. New players arrived, prices came down. CDMA was launched. And that was when I acquired my first own mobile handset - Kyocera CDMA phone through Tata.

Well after a while I shifted to an Airtel GSM connection which I continue to use till today. I also changed my handset a couple of times. From a basic phone to a smart phone, I have seen it all, to say so.
Today, the penetration of telephone services is more than 60%. The total number of mobile subscribers is close to 563 million and the remaining are connect through a wire.

Going back to 2000, I finished my MBA and joined Integral PR which was owned by Mr. Deepak Talwar. Mr. Talwar was a very dynamic man, a very famous person in the Indian Political and Business circles. He used to visit Chennai office once a while. And that was the first time, I saw someone who had not one but two mobile phones. Wow, now that meant something!


My wife was handed a BlackBerry and a connection by her employer. She already had a personal connection. The lady is quite principled. She does not prefer using office landline or official mobile phone to make personal calls, unless it is an emergency. So she decided to keep her personal connection. So we bought a Micromax Q2 for her. A Dual SIM Phone with decent features and priced just below Rs. 3000.

Oh, did I say Dual SIM phone! But actually she doesn’t use that feature. She, in fact, carries two phones. Now, who wants to own more than one connection? Not everyone is a Deepak Talwar. Carrying two phones around, two bills and managing them, a pain. But I guess such a market does exist. This recent article in Brand Equity puts the numbers slightly higher.

“… For example, multiple SIM usage. “There’s definitely a multiple SIM phenomenon. It is evidenced by a recent spurt in the handset sales of multiple SIM phones. Among the 575 million connections, we have seen there are quite a number of users with multiple SIMs,” says Mahesh Prasad, president, Reliance communications. He estimates 70% to 80% of the total subscriber base is active and of these, 20% are multiple SIM users.”

In the olden days of the landlines, anyone who had two phones meant that the person was powerful and rich. Not that it was expensive but just that it was difficult to get a connection. Would that be true if someone has two mobile connections? Most certainly, I would guess.

So who might use a Dual SIM phone? I am not clear about that. Would it be an entrepreneur like Deepak Talwar or Gopal with whom I play tennis? Would that be top executives in corporate or yuppies? Interestingly, I have come across two young ladies who carry two mobile phones.

In my opinion, it could just be fad. Why is it that large players are not so keenly contesting for this niche space? You hear brands such as Micromax, Maxx, Fly, Orion, Spice…or the generic ‘Korean’ assembled pieces. It would be important to mention that Micromax is now the third largest mobile handset company in India. Is it just a differentiation tactic used by the players who aspire to make it big?

But if we assume that, today, two mobile connections is more amongst the rich and powerful, then those at the top may prefer an established brand. Will a CEO prefer to carry an iPHONE or a Blackberry with Dual SIM feature or a Micromax phone?

I am in Dual Mind, now.

PS: I would like to point out that I am not claiming that the top handset brands do not have Dual SIM phones, just that they are not as aggressive as the newer brands.
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