Uninor builds a region-intensive marketing strategy

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In a highly cluttered telecom industry in India, that has been marred with controversies off late, Uninor, a joint venture between Norway’s Telenor and Unitech Group has been banking on its differentiated positioning and region specific communication initiatives to maintain its foothold in the industry. For the record the Norwegian partner holds a majority stake in Uninor of 67.25 per cent, and has invested Rs 14,000 crore in establishing and running Uninor operations.

According to the company’s strategy it aims to achieve 8 per cent market share by 2018, by being best in servicing the basics, building strong mass market distribution and running an efficient operation.

Over the years, Uninor has continued with its positioning of a mass market model targeting the primary second SIM users in all the circles it operates in. The telecom operator also sees significant conversions by its loyal consumer base towards owning primary SIM cards.

In terms of the targeted consumer segment, Sharad Mehrotra, Chief Sales Officer, Uninor India disagrees that Uninor is essentially a small town telecom operator with focus on Tier II and III cities. He explains that the operator is present in 13 circles across the country, and in terms of coverage covers most part of the states it has a presence in. In totality, Uninor operates in 22 circles and follows a clustered approach, and all its distribution and network strategies are aligned to the same approach.

Regional marketing focus
Uninor has remained consistent with its value propositions over the years and the same has been reflected in all its marketing and communication plans. To differentiate itself from the host of other telecom operators present in the industry, Uninor has adopted a no frills model. It focuses on providing pure voice services with no 3G, no postpaid, and no advanced VAS (value added services). Mehrotra confidently asserts that India has enough potential for basic voice, and with roughly 80-90 per cent of telecom revenues coming from voice, it is reason enough to stress on this area.

All its marketing endeavours have revolved around communicating its twin propositions of transparency and affordability. Last year’s marketing campaign revolved around the Dynamic Pricing positioning, which was followed by the ‘Two Paisa per Minute’ campaign which continued till the first quarter of 2012.

It was after the cancellation of its mobile licenses following the 2G spectrum scam earlier this year that the company launched a new 360 degree national campaign ‘We Love Uninor’ around March this year to reinstate people’s trust in the brand. The campaign, with a new positioning as  ‘Pay Less Talk More’ included a television commercial, which showcased the product benefits, lesser need of frequent recharges and primarily targeted the value conscious younger generation as well as an aggressive print and ground campaign.

Sharad Mehrotra, Chief Sales Officer, Uninor India

Sharad Mehrotra, Chief Sales Officer, Uninor India

Digital media also figures as an important marketing platform for Uninor to engage with its core audience, the youth. The ‘We Love Uninor’ campaign also included digital initiatives. A community was formed on facebook by Uninor employees to instil confidence among consumers and drive awareness.

Uninor has continued with the same positioning since then. However on a generic level, barring some instances, Uninor follows a more regional marketing strategy as opposed to a national one. It does not have a single, unified platform pan-India that fits into all the regions but has adopted a localised marketing strategy in sync with the requirements and market scenarios of different regions. Mehrotra feels that the consumer profile, penetration, and the strategy to be pursued varies for different circles and hence the differentiated communication plans, even though they all center on the same premise.

West Bengal, for instance, is currently running a ‘Sabse Sasta’ Offer while Bihar has an ongoing campaign leveraging the monsoon season.

In terms of the marketing platform, Uninor relies heavily on BTL (Below the Line) activities to drive local awareness and sales. It is not very aggressive on using the electronic media since it does not have a pan-India presence; the only exception to this being its marketing policy down South, where a heavy weightage is given to marketing via television. In all other places, it focuses on connecting with the local retailers and local consumers through interactive programmes. It also drives themes targeting college and university students.

With a mass market model and penetration into different consumer segments, wouldn’t a celebrity endorser add value to the brand and elevate its mass connect?

Mehrotra disagrees and feels that more than a celebrity it is the local faces that connect better with the customers.  “There is a trade-off between the brand index of a brand celebrity and your own brand index and which one of the two is actually going up.  Our strategy is to communicate directly with the customer,” he explains.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty about its licence or the overall gloom in the telecom sector, Uninor claims to be seeing an uptrend on the subscriber and the revenue side. With a 45 million subscriber base at present, it holds a market share of 6.5 per cent in the 13 circles it operates in, and a 5 per cent share pan-India (source TRAI). All its operations are targeted towards achieving an EBIDTA break-even by 2013.

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