Vodafone Idea, Airtel and Reliance Jio might propose digital customer acquisition process to stall further decline in sale of mobile connections as the country battles the COVID-19 outspread. According to a Economic Times report on Friday, the Indian telecom operators have managed to add only 500,000 new customers in March. It was said that the telecom operators normally add around 2.5 million to 3 million subscribers each month. With India still under the COVID-19 lockdown that is set to last at least until April 14, telecom operators seem to have devised the plan to acquire new customers electronically.
The report said that the telecom operators are planning to seek the necessary approvals from the respective government departments. It is said that the telecom operators are working to make sure “there is consensus on the ways to ensure all e-KYC (electronic-know your customer) parameters can be securely met digitally.”
A spokesperson for Vodafone Idea has told the publication that the company is establishing a digital acquisition process that would let potential customers to join its network digitally.
Further, the publication cites an unnamed top industry executive who suggests that the telecom operators might approach the government once the carriers have an electronic solution that meets e-KYC parameters at their disposal. The solution would include authenticating customer’s identity and address securely along with letting customers upload their photos online meeting government’s criteria without them visiting a store.
In the case of further lockdown, the report said that telecom operators under the current plans would seek the government’s nod for home delivery of SIM cards through couriers.
It has to be noted that e-KYC norms are widely used in the financial sector with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2019 enabling banks to use e-KYC for opening of accounts. However, only Aadhar based e-KYC is currently allowed and accepted on the consent of a customer. Under the scheme, RBI let banks to open instant accounts through an OTP generated using Aadhar.
While many of the fintech companies along with banks, mutual funds and insurance companies were acquiring customers through instant and paperless KYC, an Supreme Court judgement in 2018 halted the process.
The RBI directions in 2019 re-introduced e-KYC in India, however, Aadhar process being accepted only on customer’s consent, with the accounts opened under the process placed with limitations. A customer who opened the account through the e-KYC process wasn’t allowed to have a balance exceeding Rs 1,00,000. Further, the customer was required to undergo regular KYC norms within an year and ensure his account was converted to a regular banking account.
Further, in January 2020, RBI allowed video based authentication as an alternative to e-KYC but again to those customers who used Aadhar for verification. Under the scheme, RBI let customers to show their documents through a video chat and that the customer had to consent to let the Aadhar be used for the purpose. RBI had also said that the interested customers using the video based authentication had to enable geotagging for the banks to ensure customers are present in the country.
It remains to be seen whether such restrictions are placed by the telecom companies on the customers using e-KYC process.