Even though Reliance Jio is the largest telecom operator in the country by a huge margin, Bharti Airtel, the second-largest operator, can succeed Jio in the future. Airtel is not a small brand. Both the telecom operators have a different approach of targeting customers, and both have yielded results like recently Airtel was leading with a 97.47% VLR ratio when compared with Jio or Vodafone Idea. The only reason why Jio went past Airtel in a jiffy was because of the first-mover advantage with the unlimited 4G data plans. No one in the industry had predicted a move like that from any of the operators.
However, Airtel has caught up to the trend. Airtel has built a strong identity and brand by competing head to head with Jio. Just until February, Airtel was adding more subscribers than Jio for consecutive months. A key thing to note here is that even though Jio added more net subscribers than Airtel in February, Airtel added active subscribers while Jio was in the negative when it came to active subscribers.
Airtel has the power to get ahead of Jio, and it can do one thing which can help it push Jio behind very soon.
Airtel Can Follow Up With Legacy Network Subscribers
Legacy network subscribers aren’t just in the portfolio of Airtel but also present in the user base of Vodafone Idea (Vi) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). Airtel has been adding new subscribers at an alarming rate for Jio; however, it is still not close to the total subscriber base of Jio.
Further, if Airtel can introduce attractive entry-level 4G plans and couple those plans with a device like JioPhone, even it can attract new customers looking to upgrade to 4G services by paying a nominal amount.
However, this would hurt the telco’s ambitions of keeping the highest average revenue per user (ARPU) in the industry. Furthermore, Airtel has made it clear that it doesn’t want to attract a ton of low ARPU customers. The operator would rather have fewer customers, but ones who pay handsomely.
However, this is the only way Airtel can beat Jio fast. There are other scenarios as well where Airtel might take over Jio. But those scenarios include Jio making a mistake of such a massive scale that it literally shakes its customer base into negative. This scenario is rather unlikely with the kind of management and reputation that Reliance Jio has.
However, Airtel can also play the long-term game and keep offering users a higher and superior quality network service as compared to Jio for essentially the same tariffs. Even this way, Airtel could surpass Jio. But this is also an unlikely scenario since in the long-term, if Jio has more subscribers than Airtel, then even if the telco has low-ARPU customers, it would still earn handsomely because of the large number of subscribers.
If Jio keeps on earning more and makes more profits, it would be able to reinvest all that money into spectrum purchases and network expenditures. This would help Jio again take the lead. The only way Airtel can surpass Jio is by aggressive strategies; the long-term game would just give Jio that much time to prepare and stay ahead.