Chandrashekhar Singh Chauhan is a telecom marketer with more than 17 years in the South Asian markets. He has worked with some of the world renowned telecommunications brands and is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Airtel Sri Lanka. Chandra is a tech enthusiast and loves to study the emerging digital trends.
Here's his take on how Airtel Sri Lanka is forging ahead with its digital services initiatives.
The Fast Mode: The gradual transformation of CSPs (Communications Service Providers) into DSPs (Digital Service Providers) has become more apparent in recent years. What do you think are the major push factors for CSPs to explore digital services offerings as part of the telco business expansion?
Chandrashekhar Singh: Transformation to DSP is becoming a mandate with the drastic change in customer’s usage behavior. The whole ecosystem has evolved rapidly, making mobile browsing the preferred option, shifting mobile usage largely towards data. The rise of social media and OTT have also changed the way people connect with each other. Telcos will have to adapt and change to stay relevant. Personally, I believe for CSP it’s not a matter of ‘If you do it’ but ‘when you do it’.
The Fast Mode: For Airtel Sri Lanka, want could be the biggest opportunities in the digital services segment? Why?
Chandrashekhar Singh: We at Airtel Srilanka, have always attracted tech savvy youth. This makes it critical for us to be ahead of the curve in the digital domain. In the short term we see clearly opportunities in the following areas:
Digitising the customer journey – We have initiated several project aimed at fulfilling all of our customer’s requirements online. From receiving a sim, to topping up the account and to reach out to us, we have made it available online. Keeping in mind the new generation’s preference to ‘text’ over ‘talk’ we have setup live chat interfaces on social media and our web-site. For customers who like to do it themselves, we have also rolled out ‘My Airtel’ – a new self-care app that is designed to address all possible queries and service requirements and is available across all platforms.
Enriching our product offerings – We have been ahead of the competition in getting the latest content and services to Sri Lanka and we are keen on maintaining this status quo. Airtel was the first to launch Google Play direct carrier billing where our customers can purchase over a million apps on Google Play Store using a secure payment method. We strongly feel services like these would have a wide acceptance in the near future.
The Fast Mode: How has the take up been on the initial rollouts of digital services by Airtel Sri Lanka? Have there been any challenges? If yes, what are they?
Chandrashekhar Singh: We have had a very encouraging response to all our digital service initiatives. As far as adoption rates are concerned, the urban uptake is in par with most Asian markets. However, the time taken to expand digital services outside the city limits is limited. In order for customers to feel secure in making online purchases, e-commerce needs to develop further. More innovative, lifestyle digital products and services can be developed once the service acceptance grows wider.
The Fast Mode: Can you share some insights into the collaborative models being adopted by Airtel Sri Lanka which enables the Operator to work successfully with providers of content, payment intermediaries, internet giants and other parties involved in the supply chain of digital goods and services?
Chandrashekhar Singh: We firmly believe in a win-win partnership for any relationship to be successful, with both parties being equally excited about the tie-up. We actively seek new avenues to foster partnerships from the relevant domains. We are open to explore new partnership models if it will result in a significant value add to our customers. As a result, we have been able to get valued partners like Google on board. In addition, we recently launched another digital service the ‘Movie box’ in association with a local partner, which is the only platform in Sri Lanka hosting over 500 Sinhala movies online.
The Fast Mode: Can you elaborate on Airtel Sri Lanka’s recent partnership with Google for the launch of online purchasing service for the first time in the country?
Chandrashekhar Singh: With this partnership, for the first time in Sri Lanka customers will be able to purchase apps and other digital content without the need for a credit card. This Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) service will allow prepaid customers to have their purchases deducted from their airtime balances, while postpaid customers will have their purchases tallied to their monthly phone bill. Airtel customers will now have access to millions of paid apps on Google Play store, including new movies, music, educational content and games.
The Fast Mode: What does 2018 bode in terms of Operator revenues and growth in the digital services sphere, and what can we expect from Airtel Sri Lanka in the new year?
Chandrashekhar Singh: Given the fast-paced developments happening in the digital domain, the new year will be quite exciting. Telcos will see an increased contribution of digital services in their business growth. At Airtel we will stay focused on enhancing our customer experience by digitizing the customer journey. By empowering our customers with content options such as education, entertainment and gaming services, we expect to deliver brilliant customer experiences.