By Raghav Narsalay, Ryan T. Coffey,
Aarohi Sen and Smriti Mathur
The telecommunications industry is one of the most mature and established industries in low-income markets across India.
In urban centers and small cities, fierce competition for low-income subscribers is leading to market saturation. But a wave of fresh growth is under way, thanks to new thinking about how to reach those who have not yet participated in the telecom revolution. Case in point: IDEA
Cellular launched an innovative sales model that helped the company rapidly build relationships with a large and entirely new group of lowincome Indian consumers in remote towns and villages.
Impact of the inclusive business initiative
To succeed as a telecom provider in rural
India, scale of the subscriber base is critical.
It’s needed both to keep the price-perminute down, and to make it possible for the company to recover its costs for developing infrastructure. Given that small cities in rural India were already becoming saturated,
Idea Cellular concentrated on reaching smaller villages clustered around them. These villages were largely ignored until then— lower population density made them more expensive to serve than urban areas.
Instead of emulating its competitor’s huband-spoke model, Idea developed a direct distribution model to acquire and serve its customers. The company successfully integrated a village distribution and sales network into its small city and wider regional operations. The key to the network are local territory sales executives (TSEs)—indigenous villagers, often recruited under Idea’s “Sons of the Soil” initiative, who run day-to-day sales operations in small villages.
The TSE model has been delivering both business gains and societal value. Thanks to effective recruitment and motivation methods, these employees quickly contributed to improving the company’s bottom line. While