NEW DELHI, August 02
Escotel Mobile Communications Ltd, a 51-per cent subsidiary of Escorts India, plans to more than double its turnover to Rs 250-crore this year. The Rs 105-crore company is on the verge of crossing the 200,000-subscriber mark in the next two weeks. Escotel started commercial operations in western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Kerala in 1997, and today covers 92 towns and nearly 2,000 villages.
India's current cellular base stands at around 23 lakh subscribers, and is growing at a rate of 1 lakh per month. Though Escotel's share is less than 10 per cent of the national pie in terms of subscribers, it is one of the leading players in the hinterland of the country.
For example, in its three circles of western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Kerala, it commands 100-per cent, 90-per cent and 55-per cent of the revenue-share, respectively. And it is growing at a rate of nearly 15,000 subscribers per month.
Yet, like a lot of other cellular operators across the country, it's still losing money. Explains Manoj Kohli, executive director and CEO, Escotel, "Considering the high costs of setting up the infrastructure and the relatively low tariff structure in the towns and villages, it is very difficult to make money. For this, hinterland operators like us could use cooperation from the government in reducing licence charges."
For the moment, Escotel is able to continue operations on the strength of the Escorts Group's deep pockets. As things stand now, Escotel hopes to break even by February 2001.
To expand its subscriber base in the face of stiff competition, and hang on to its current subscribers, Escotel claims to be looking at customer-care in a whole new light. For the purpose, it has tied up with the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, and funded a Rs 20 lakh Chair of Customer Relationship Management.
In addition, the company has upped last year's above-the-line ad budget from Rs 5-crore to an unspecified amount this year. To boot, it recently launched a series of ad campaigns, both print as well as TVCs, in its regional markets, the focus again being on customer care.
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