A few years ago experts had predicted that the arrival of malls, hypermarts and then the online stores would spell doom for the Kirana shops - the tiny mom-and-pop corner stores.No such thing has happened, at least in our corner of the world.
In Noida, corner stores continue to thrive, even while charging premiums, or at the very least, the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) for their goods. Unlike the mega-malls and online stores, they continue to be better tuned in to customer needs. Their range of goods tends to be rather limited but with longer hours (06:30 - 22:30) and options of making monthly payments, the strong point continues to be personalised services.
Something similar is now happening in the broadband services space.
The first-mover here was the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). They were the first to lay an extensive optic-fibre network and had a captive market of residents with fixed-line telephones. It was a great business opportunity and they blew it - thanks largely to their amazing line-men who just could not kick the habit of demanding bribes, making shoddy wire-connections, just to ensure failures and, in turn, to keep the speed money flowing.
Repeated complaints to senior BSNL officials had absolutely no effect. This was the classic Rhett Butler approach to customer satisfaction - 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!'
The local entrepreneurs soon sensed a business opportunity. Now we have three competing broadband entrepreneurs - Paramhans Internet, Fiberworld and RT Radiaant. Each of them offers competitive prices, access to an optic-fibre network, and built in multiple redundencies to ensure minimum down time.
For instance, Fiberworld uses an optic fibre network with a set of six Radio Frequency (RF) antennas providing a backup. It was using the optic-fibre network from Triple Play until it switched over to Perfect Internet, a few weeks ago.
The good thing about these local service providers is that they operate on the Kirana work-ethic. Quick response to customer complaints, customised services with no demand for bribes. On the down side, their wiring is messy and ugly, not unlike the cable-TV guys who had a cobweb of cables dangling across buildings. Exposed cables also tempt the companies to keep competition at bay by cutting cables, and corners.
Now all the Kirana Broadband guys are looking over their shoulders, anxioulsy awaiting the arrival of Reliance-Jio, the King Kong in broadband arena.
Reliance Jio claims to have laid more than 250,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cables, covering 18,000 cities and over 100,000 villages, with the aim of covering 100% of the nation’s population by 2018. In the first phase itself, Jio aims to have 100 million wireless broadband and 20 million Fibre-to-Home customers.
Will the Kirana Broadband service providers be able to survive the Jio marketing blitz? Will they fare better than the cable-TV companies that had got decimated by DTH services?
Whatever the outcome, the customers are like to get better, more reliable options, as the days go by!
REFERENCES & LINKS
* Reliance Jio - http://www.ril.com/ourBusinesses/Jio.aspx
* Triple Play - http://www.tptl.in/
* Perfect Internet - perfectinternet.in