@MWC: Bharti Airtel proves value of media in emerging markets

**As published in RCR Wireless News** BARCELONA – In India today there are 500 million wireless subscribers spanning across 14 operators. Bharti Airtel, the third largest single-country operator in the world, controls a 30% market share with more than 120 million of those customers and 1.9 million retail locations. The company’s CEO Sanjay Kapoor took his turn on the keynote stage this morning to offer examples of the carrier’s push into mobile content and explain how a penny-per-minute model and ARPU of $2 to $3 is rapidly changing the carrier’s user base. With 560 million youths, 700 million people living rural areas and 70% of the population not having a bank account, Kapoor and his team are vying to leverage every partnership and asset possible to differentiate the operator’s services offering and continue to deliver incredible growth numbers.

Kapoor believes the Indian market is moving from “monitoring a share of telecom wallet to a share of customer wallet” and mobile content is playing perhaps the greatest role in that shift. For the carrier, mobile media can come in the form of music, Bollywood or a partnership with the country’s largest fertilizer company that’s produced a set of information services about weather, plants, animals and other matters of prime importance to rural farmers. Last month, more than 60% of the carriers’ new customers came from rural areas. No longer is the strategy to sell services that ride on content and Bharti Airtel knows full well that customers aren’t going to pay for something from the carrier if they can get it elsewhere in a simpler manner or for less money. “It’s truly becoming a medium of choice as we are going forward,” he said. “What we are trying to create is some sustainable properties.” Only recently has the telecommunications world tried to connect with the media world and to do that with any major success, talent from the entertainment industry must be brought in to lead, Kapoor said. Those key entertainment decision makers at Bharti Airtel are no longer telecom veterans, but people from the entertainment industry. As a result, the carrier has become increasingly involved in the pre-production process in media, whereas before it was only involved in the post-production stages. Because entertainment through cable and wired line has not penetrated the country very heavily, most people’s first media experience comes via content delivered by mobile. With mobile already eclipsing any scale achieved by other media platforms, Bharti Airtel plans to continue formulating an ecosystem around its network and customers.