Two years after promising to spend $9 billion on network transformation under its Project Leap plan, India's Bharti Airtel is taking a further step towards digitization with a follow-up initiative called Project Next. Over the next two years, it plans to invest about INR20 billion ($310 million) on digitizing its business. (See Airtel Transforms IT to Meet Digitization Challenge .)
Described in press statements as a "digital innovation program," the Next initiative will see Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) focus on making improvements to customer experience across a range of services and channels.
"We would be investing to improve the quality of call centers and to digitize and automate our contact points with the customers," says Gopal Vittal, the CEO of Airtel's Indian and South Asian business.
The plan is to transform about 2,500 stores it maintains across India. Three state-of-the-art ones have already been opened in Gurgaon. "These stores are digitally dynamic and our customers will be able to explore and experience our new services and products in a totally different environment," says Vital.
Airtel has also announced a new version of its MyAirtel app aimed at giving customers more of a real-time experience. "We are committed to removing the pain points of our customers and we believe that they would be able to address most of these with this new version," says Vital.
The operator has been trying to address concern about customer experience following the launch of services by arch-rival Reliance Jio in September last year. RJio already claims to have 120 million subscribers. It has completely changed the customer acquisition process by connecting its systems to Aadhaar, a biometric identification system developed by Indian authorities. RJio's sophisticated process makes it much easier for customers to join its network.
Like RJio, Airtel wants to simplify transactions for its 280 million customers and be able to more easily address their complaints. Among other things, it is making it easier for subscribers to shift from prepaid to postpaid deals. From August this year, postpaid customers will also be able to carry any unused data over to the following month.
Airtel also unveiled an offer called Family Promise to help postpaid customers create customized solutions for the family by adding connections to their account. "This is only for mobile subscribers right now but we hope to extend it to direct-to-home subscribers as well," says Vittal.
Another service, called Airtel Secure, is designed to protect smartphones from accidental damage.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading