India's largest service provider, Bharti Airtel, is transforming its information technology (IT) infrastructure to deal with the challenges of the 4G-enabled digital world.
"The 4G technology has been a real enabler... a large part of the entire digital agenda that we run for Airtel is possible today because we have technologies like 4G," said Harmeen Mehta, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL)'s global chief information officer and head of digital engineer, in a discussion with Light Reading. "We have also recently revamped our My Airtel Apps as one-stop shop for subscribers' media and entertainment needs... and it has been possible because of 4G. A dedicated team has been working on it for the last six months." (See Harmeen Mehta – Consumer-Inspired Digital Transformation.)
Airtel was the first Indian service provider to launch 4G in the country last year. But it is only with the recent launch of Reliance Jio 's 4G services that the market has started to pick up. The rollout of a data-centric technology like 4G has led Airtel to rethink its processes.
The recent focus on data has also driven Airtel, along with most of the other service providers, to try to leverage the insights from subscriber usage data in their networks to provide targeted services. Airtel was one of the first Indian telcos to deploy a customer experience management (CEM) platform, and Mehta reckons this has enabled the company to offer customized packages to its subscribers.
"The packages that we offer to our subscribers today are highly customized," she says. "If you and I both go to the same retailer, we would get totally different offers, and that is all based on the insights from the CEM platform."
"We have also started to do targeted marketing for different segments and it has definitely allowed us to serve the customer better," she adds. "We are also starting to use that to understand the customer's network experience and today we are able to resolve the problem before the subscriber even calls our call center to complain."
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Mehta says the launch of 4G has led to an enhanced automation of Airtel's sales and distribution processes. "When we launched 4G we changed a lot of industry processes including how SIM swaps were done," she says. "While earlier it used to take 24 hours, now everything is instantaneous. We have the most digitized sales and distribution network in the entire country of any industry and we won an award from the TM Forum for that earlier this year. It has been a big differentiator in the market for Airtel as well."
Mehta is particularly gung-ho about the big data analytics side of the story, since Airtel is now one of the largest big data companies in the world. "I am very excited about the analytics piece because we are one of the largest big data companies as well and it allows us to do a lot more with the data that we have," she explains. "We process about 28 billion call records in a day."
Mehta also says that Airtel's views about outsourcing have been changing as the company develops. "It is really about choosing the right horses for the right courses," she says. "When Airtel was in the initial stages of growth, we outsourced to IBM in one of the first outsourcing deal from a telecom operator. At that point in time we needed the backing of big companies like IBM and Ericsson. Today it is different. While we still leverage a lot from outsourcing, there are areas where we want to hold on to the intellectual property and don’t outsource."
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading