Rashmi Menon and Satrajit Sen

MTS: Luring Gen-Smartass

MTS, in association with Micromax, has released a multi-media campaign to woo today's digital natives. The TVC positions Canvas Blaze as a 'smartass phone for the internet generation'.

If one were to base his judgement of today's Indian youth purely on recent TVCs, the verdict would be something like this: a grungy looking, tech-savvy, bold, self-centred bunch of youngsters, ready with a smart-aleck retort if anyone dare challenge their brazen convictions.

MTS: Luring Gen-Smartass
The latest campaign by MTS, mobile telecom service brand by Sistema Shyam TeleServices, is one such instance. The product being promoted is the Canvas Blaze, a dual Sim CDMA plus GSM smartphone designed exclusively for MTS by mobile handset manufacturer Micromax. The device is preloaded with MTS Blaze internet, and data and voice benefits for six months.

The campaign is targeted at young smart phone users -- or 'the internet generation' as the brand calls them -- comprising youngsters who see technology, speed and connectivity as sources of power.

The TVC opens with a confident collegian getting a chest tattoo (presumably a symbol of defiance), as a voiceover (VO) declares his mantra: "It's all about me". The VO goes on with statements like, "I make Google what it is - a verb", "I don't sleep till my downloads are over" and "All the World Wide Web is a stage. And, this is my show." At the end of the film, both, the Micromax as well as MTS logos appear, in quick succession.

The film is directed by Bharat Sikka and produced by Flying Pigs, a production house.

MTS: Luring Gen-Smartass
Sajan Raj Kurup, founder and creative chairman, Creativeland Asia (MTS' creative agency) calls the present film a "character sketch of an emerging behaviour code." The cast includes teenagers from Delhi and Punjab. The TVC is shot extensively on the streets of Delhi, in places like Karol Bagh, Nehru Place, inside the dingy Palika Bazar and the crowded Lajpat Nagar.

Curiously, the association of MTS with Micromax has not been focussed on in the commercial. Kurup explains, "Everyone likes Micromax phones, so I don't need to sell it. What I need to sell is MTS's attitude. Since the brand has come out with a piece of communication after a long time, we made sure to make it look different from the rest of the players in the telecom space. It was important to start setting the 'grammar' right."

The focus, Kurup adds, is the product and the people who use it. "Since MTS is focusing on data service, the device is for people who use their fingers more than their ears. Even the terminology used in the TVC is different from the kind other players use. In the ad, we don't say 'using' the device; we say 'exploiting' the device," he explains.

Today, with every other brand targeting the youth and every third brand playing on either the restlessness or the rebelliousness or the mere cool-quotient of India's young, isn't it particularly challenging to create campaigns of this kind and yet be different, somehow? Kurup insists his ad has "a tonal difference" when compared to other ads in this category. He argues that the film shows a generation that is not interested in making friends and is more pre-occupied with 'the self'. Whether he is referring to Airtel (what with its whole Har Ek Friend fame) we can only guess.

Besides TV, the campaign is supported by print, outdoor, BTL and digital media.

Bundle Burden?

In the light of this campaign, we take a quick look at the phenomenon of handset-operator bundling, a process in which operators give high-end handsets to subscribers at a subsidised cost. The concept is not that common in India, a handset dominated market, unlike in other operator-dominated markets like the USA and Europe.

In 2003, Reliance Infocomm was one of the first telecom service providers in the country to launch an offer that bundled handsets with a connection. Though the operator's 'Monsoon Hungama' scheme helped the company garner more than a million customers during the initial ten day period, it was deemed a failure. A spot survey by Times News Network revealed that not many of these early bird subscribers had actually understood the scheme fully; most were just dazzled by the price (Rs 501). Since then, Indian operators have, for the most part, remained wary of subsidising and bundling handsets.

MTS: Luring Gen-Smartass
Some experts feel bundling efforts in India are dampened by the fact that it is largely a pre-paid market. Others bring up existing regulations. According to telecom analyst Mahesh Uppal, telecom licensing rules make bundling unattractive for telecom companies. The Indian Government charges handset makers roughly 30 per cent of their revenue as licencing fees. So, he reckons, it would hurt a telecom operator to partner with a handset maker and launch a bundled phone.

Sure, operators do bank on growth in mobile data, especially from rural areas where subscribers log on to the internet through their mobile handsets equipped with bundled connections. But these schemes are late entrants in a highly competitive market, and are hence scarce.

Moreover, as Uppal points out, for low income -- and consequently price sensitive --consumers, wriggling out of a long-term arrangement with a particular service provider, after buying a bundled handset, can be both tedious and expensive. "Moreover," adds Uppal, "bundled arrangement means less choice for customers."

One may counter argue by pointing out that operators like Airtel, Reliance and Vodafone have started bundling with high-end smartphones like iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3. But then again, the popularity of these associations is restricted because the average smartphone user in this country has a budget of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000, a mere fraction of the cost of these handsets.

"Phones like iPhone 5 or Samsung Note 3 are not their choice and hence operators will have to really struggle to reap rewards from this business model," says another industry analyst. By the way, the iPhone 5S bundled with an Airtel connection in India currently costs Rs 53,500.

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