Is Android Reliance’s true blue partner?

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Android’s iconic green Bot turns Blue in the Indian market with Google’s collaboration with Reliance Communications to exclusively market Android TM devices in India on its network.  Through this collaboration, RCOM is marketing the Android mobile operating system and Google Mobile Services to promote the usage of Android devices in the country. How will this Android association benefit RCOM?

In line with other such collaborations in mature markets like USA, Japan and Australia, Google associated with Reliance to promote the usage of Android devices and Android based mobile applications & services in the country. Reliance also rolled out a three month advertising plan in mid-April to promote this. The campaign showcases the Green Android Bot changing its colour to become the ‘Reliance Blue Bot’.

The campaign was launched in two phases: In the first phase, RCOM focused on  how every Android Bot wants to be Blue. There were 10 TVCs, innovations on digital, ground activations and use of Outdoor and Radio.

The second phase of the campaign, demonstrates how the Reliance Blue Bot enables a superior smartphone experience through popular Google Mobile Services like YouTube, Google+, Google Maps and Gmail. Anushka Sharma, the brand ambassador for Reliance Mobile, also brought in her star power to the campaign via short 10-sec TVCs asking the viewer “I’ve turned blue. How about you?”

RCOM currently has Reliance 3G Tab and CDMA Tab both on the Android OS. Going ahead the company is planning to launch a range of Android smartphones and tabs to further leverage this partnership. The telecom company is presently in an exclusive partnership with Samsung for their Galaxy Ace range of smartphones that come exclusively bundled with Reliance Mobile.

Shivani Suri Dhanda, Deputy General Manager - Brand & Marketing, Reliance Communications

Shivani Suri Dhanda, Deputy General Manager – Brand & Marketing, Reliance Communications

Android kick
RCOM is  aiming to increase its share amongst smartphone users by way of promoting the usage of Android devices in the country. Worldwide, Android is the most popular mobile platform with over 50 per cent market share in the smart phone category. In India, Android overtook Symbian last year and according to an IDC report, Android has a market share of 42 per cent (in first quarter of 2012) of the total smartphone market in the country. It competes with other OS such as iOS (Apple), Blackberry OS, Symbian (Nokia), Bada (Samsung), etc. Experts feel that RCOM is looking at benefitting from Android’s premium image.

Despite having a second largest subscriber base of 152 million subscribers (as of February 2012, according to TRAI report), RCOM lags behind many other telecom players in terms of revenues. One of the main reasons for this mismatch is its lower active user base. According to the TRAI report, 65.4 per cent of RCOM’s reported user base was active in February. While this number was 92 per cent for Bharti, 93 per cent for Idea Cellular and 88 per cent for Vodafone during the same period. Experts feel, this partnership will help RCOM boost its subscriber base both in terms of quantity and quality.

Shivani Suri Dhanda, Deputy GM, Brand & Marketing, Reliance Communications,  shares, “Our Blue Bot campaign has already given us a leg-up in our goal to obtain a disproportionate share of the overall Android base in India. We are seeing an encouraging spurt in daily activations of Android device users. Our new subscriber base on Reliance 3G network is already growing multifold.”

Sunil R Shetty, Planning Services Director,  Draftfcb + Ulka agrees

Sunil R Shetty, Planning Services Director, Draftfcb + Ulka agrees

Some experts feel that unlike the international markets, where bundled handsets are the norm and hence the mobile service provider gets the image rub-off of innovations whether handsets or network. In India the service providers and handset manufacturers are distinct in the consumers’ mind and despite the significant investments, the image rub-off may will be limited since consumers by default associate Android with handsets and not with service providers.

But at the same time, this association may help Reliance get consumers who have higher monthly spend. Sunil R Shetty, Planning Services Director, Draftfcb + Ulka agrees, “Since Android phones per se attract a more premium consumer compared to the basic and feature phones, it may help Reliance to get better profile of consumers. However the gains may be lower than they expect since this consumer is likely to have an existing connection and may not be keen on shifting.”

Milking schemes
Interestingly, some experts feel that Indian consumers also have a tendency to milk schemes like the ones Reliance is offering of 1 GB free 3G per month and then discard the number. This has been a strong trend in the past during the height of the telecom wars and this may happen again. If this happens, RCOM may not be able to get any long term benefits out of this partnerships.

Android boost
Google’s move to partner with an Indian telecom partner indicates its interest in the potential Indian market.  It is also a strategic step in further reinforcing its hold in the Android-crazy Indian market.  Google has previously got into such collaborations in mature markets like USA, Japan and Australia. In India, Google has chosen Reliance as its partner.

Ambika Sharma, Managing Director and CEO, Pulp Strategy Communications

Ambika Sharma, Managing Director and CEO, Pulp Strategy Communications

Experts feel that the tie-up is likely to be beneficial for Android. Android will get a significant publicity boost and help drive conversions from the large base of feature phones in the Indian market which is a huge opportunity as feature phones account for the larger chunk of the handset market in India. DraftFCB+Ulka’s Shetty says, “The added publicity will help Android enter the consideration set of new buyers. Android is already well positioned with a range of phones with dual SIMs and attractively priced entry level phones from Indian and international manufacturers.”

According to research firm Convergence Catalyst, Android is now ready to capture 50 per cent of the total smartphone market in India by the end of 2012. The report also forecasts that the Indian smartphone market will grow by 100 per cent in 2012 to 18-20 million device shipments. This means the overall share of smartphones in the handset market will touch about 12-14 per cent.  Experts feel that the increased Android marketing from RCOM (because of this deal) will further push the Android popularity in India. RCOM’s Dhanda comments, “We’re already witnessing a rapid growth in the smartphone category in India with most industry analysts predicting a skew towards Android based devices in the new shipments. So yes, any marketing-communication effort that brings out the superiority of the experience on the Android platform will definitely add up and benefit Android handset sales as well.”

Ambika Sharma, Managing Director and CEO, Pulp Strategy Communications  feels, “Android devices are already a rage, with a large chunk of smartphone users. A lot of the users in particular young adults are using apps and other features with WiFi while they still are on a minimal data plan. A good cost plan may increase the usage of apps and data based services sweetening ownership of the Android device.”

However, experts are of the view that the real challenge for Android is to encourage the Indian developer market to customize Apps and the Android experience for India and even explore opportunities for localising content to state level, which will drive further adoption across the socio-economic ladder and help engage better with consumers. It may look tough but done rightly, the pay off will also be significant.

About the author / 

Abhinav Mohapatra

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