MUMBAI: India’s largest telecom operators are increasingly tapping overseas travellers by offering reduced international roaming tariffs in a bid to target a growing revenue opportunity as local voice rates come under competitive pressure.
A Vodafone subscriber travelling to the United Arab Emirates, the US or Singapore can get an all inclusive deal offering unlimited calls and data by paying Rs 2,500 for seven days.
The UK-based telecom operator is trying to ensure its customers who travel abroad keep using the network and continue to generate revenue. Idea Cellular this month started offering customers international roaming packs of up to 400 outgoing minutes, 100 text messages a day, a large volume of data and unlimited incoming calls. The rentals start at about Rs 2,499 for 30 days, depending on the overseas destination.
A few months ago, Bharti Airtel offered free incoming calls, free texts to India and data benefits along with free India calling minutes across all popular overseas destinations. For some countries, the rental could be Rs 499 a day. Both operators have special bundled packs at cheaper rates for a 10-30 day package for popular destinations. Until a few years ago, international roaming was based on pay-as-you-go rates and as overseas travel increased, operators stared introducing cheaper packages. The recent flurry of offers for outbound travellers has never been better.
Vodafone India’s pay-as-you-go rates in the US were Rs 70 per minute for outgoing local calls and incoming calls and Rs 140 a minute for outgoing international calls. Data consumption was charged at Rs 5.50 per 10 KB, which is equal to 563 per MB, the company said. The move to woo overseas travellers comes as telcos respond to Reliance Jio, which started in September by offering free voice and data promotional packages until March. Jio’s rivals cut their voice and data rates to retain customers, hurting their revenue and earnings.
Vodafone is targeting about 60 per cent of its Indian customers who travel abroad but are hesitant to take packs provided by the operator that are considered expensive. It’s trying to retain them by offering attractive packages so that they need not sign up for a local number or use data by latching on to free Wi-Fi zones.
“They are the high-value, post-paid customers. This segment is important because international roaming for Indian subscribers has increased by 26 per cent CAGR in the last two years,” said Avneesh Khosla, EVP-products and services at Vodafone India. Global telecommunication companies have been struggling to cope with the trend of declining basic voice and data service prices.
Research by KPMG suggests telcos may lose about $386 billion between 2012 and 2018 as subscribers switch to over-the-top apps such as Skype and WhatsApp to make calls using data. According to research by KPMG, 2 per cent of India’s 1.12 billion telecom subscribers are international travellers. It said there is a potential revenue opportunity for carriers, with the number of Indians travelling abroad having increased 2.5 times in the past decade. More than 20 million Indians travelled abroad in 2015 compared with about 8 million in 2006. The United Nations World Tourism Organization predicts that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020.
“Companies feel the need to come up with more tariffs for subscribers travelling abroad to reduce the dependence of customers on over-the-top content services and prevent them from switching over to local telecom providers, thus leading to increased customer loyalty and retention,” said Jaideep Ghosh, partner, management consulting, at KPMG India.
While the number of business travellers rises, the average duration of leisure overseas travel is increasing from four or five days earlier as more families opt for longer international holidays. Khosla of Vodafone said only 30 per cent of its subscribers today take up international packs and forecasts a two to three-fold growth in their usage. According to a senior telecom analyst who did not want to be identified, those who take international roaming are high average revenue per user subscribers who should be retained.