As a prelude to this exercise, Aircel has commissioned a study to facilitate a national brand strategy.
Jagdish Kini, the newly appointed Group Chief Executive Officer, said, "we are currently doing a research to understand the brand and what Aircel means to people in various parts of the country." The ongoing research, he said, would help the company decide on whether it would be ideal to continue with the Aircel brand for its foray into North and North-East India or introduce a different one. While being cautious on the brand issue, Mr. Kini, however, said, "the positioning of the brand has to be national."
Aircel is a predominant player in Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles. It has got licence to operate in seven other circles (West Bengal, North-East, Assam, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal pradesh and Bihar). It has already commenced operations in West Bengal, North-East, Assam, Orissa, Jammu and Kashmir. In Bihar and Himachal Pradesh, the roll-out would happen by December, Mr. Kini added.
The new group CEO said Aircel had also applied for licences for the remaining 14 circles. Aircel has a subscriber base of about 3.80 million, with Tamil Nadu and Chennai circles constituting about three million. The North-East circle has a customer base of around 7.50 lakh.
Mr. Kini said Maxis Communications, the parent company, was committed to making the necessary investment to fund Aircel's expansion.
To a question, he said, "we don't want to play the price game." Nevertheless, he felt that Aircel might have to play the price game in some markets.
If the roll out went according to plans, Aircel could overtake its parent in a couple of years in terms of the subscriber base. Maxis has a customer base of about seven million in Malaysia. The Indonesian market, it is pointed out, is almost saturated. Though cell phone penetration level is low now, India is likely to see escalating growth in mobile phones in the coming years. This would ensure that Aircel's current subscriber base was more than doubled in the next two years, Mr. Kini said. "It is the growth prospects in India that had made Maxis invest here," he added.
KVP. Bhaskar, CEO (South), said Aircel would introduce GPRS and e-mail features in the next couple of months.
Though the company was ready with the hardware some months ago, the need to put in place monitoring equipment had delayed the launch of GPRS, he added.