Airtel’s Opportunistic innovation
February 25, 2012 3 Comments
In the past I have written about incremental product innovations that wow you! On my visit to India, I came across such an innovation via the local telecom provider Bharti Airtel. Since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2004, getting a SIM card for your mobile phone in India requires paperwork that includes your photo, copies of your passport etc. It is doable, but just the thought of paperwork had stopped me from getting a SIM card. Instead, I ended up using my sister’s extra cell phone while I was in India. The only problem with this is that I have to give it back to her before I leave, thereby leaving me with no phone before I arrive home or after I leave home on my return trip. This has been bit of a hassle.
So this time, I am at the Kochi International Airport and wanted to make a phone call letting my parents know that my flight was on time. So I ask someone where I could find a public phone (that vintage one). They point me to an Airtel desk. I walk over and tell the gentleman manning the desk that I need to make a phone call. He had a better offer for me. He asked me if I had a mobile phone on me and I did – but one without a SIM card. He offered to sell me a SIM card for 100 Indian Rupees ($2 USD) and did all the paperwork necessary in less than 5 minutes including using a digital camera to take my photo and copy of my passport. I was just WOWed, because here was a simple innovation that solved a real customer need. And I was not alone, this chap was busy with other travellers either buying new SIM cards or reloading their old prepaid SIM cards with more money. Airtel was gaining customers one at a time, but at a place where there was no competition.
Bottomline, you do not have to come up with game changing innovations like the iphone or the ipad, there are a lot of customers problems that can be solved via simple yet profitable innovations. In fact, I would argue that there are more incremental innovations that are equally effective than game changing ones! Agreed?