March 1995 – The Year that brought private-owned telecom company in India as Birla Communications. In a very diverse India, Birla Communications started it’s operations in Maharashtra and Gujarat and started to move slowly to all across the country. After multiple mergers and joint ventures, it was in the year 2002 the Brand ‘Idea’ was born. Birla Communications owned by Aditya Birla Group named their telecom company as Idea.
Idea Tagline: What an idea Sirjee!!!!
2002, I was born. Brand Idea was born. In a beautiful country with full of diversity in terms of languages, customs, religions etc; I was born, Idea was born.
It all started on a dream note, as I went on to hit 1 million subscribers in the very same year. I knew this was just the beginning and I have a lot to travel. Pitching to customers across the country was my target, I garnered all the attention from both young dashing India & Patient Elderly Indians, with the help of this I quickly hit 5 million and 6 million subscriber mark in the year 2006. My family turned so big and cheerful. With love from India, I had also hit the profits. It was a double Dhamaka year.
The entry into the NSE & BSE:
Oh Yes! It was a happy phase, but I knew this wouldn’t be enough for me to become the top player in the Indian market. I had to quickly shift my gears and I did it so by ringing up my advertising team ‘Lowe Lintas’. We decided to leave no stone unturned and hired my ‘Sirjee’ Mr Abhishek Bachchan as my brand ambassador. Thus we launched ullu banaoing concept. My life had changed, the Brand idea was going in the right direction and of course, I was the happiest of all the telecom companies.
In two years my subscriber mark reached 21 million. Learning from my finance team that I need more capital to stay in line with competitors, I had called up for a Board Meeting and we decided to go for an IPO worth 2100 Crores. India welcomed my requirement and after successful IPO subscription, I made entry into India’s secondary market on both Bombay and National Stock Exchange.
The entry of Jio wreaking havoc in Telecom Sector:
Come 2015, the story of telecom started to change in India. 3G started to make entry into rural India as well, thanks to cheap smartphone companies. Well, this was nothing though in comparison to the havoc that the Giant Reliance was about to create. Yes, it was a good year as my brand hit 171 million subscriber mark, but come June 2016 – Reliance Jio and Ambani made a grand entry using economical pricing into the Indian Telecom Sector. Making it a very vulnerable business for me to sustain and using low-priced bundle pricing tactic, Jio made the bulk of new subscriptions. It had hit my brand unimaginably like it hit every other telecom company. After all, I was being considered a company with creativity, I decided to join hands with competitor Vodafone.
Who is Vodafone?
It was Hutch before and had a beautiful journey just like me, but we were competitors. A merger with British telecom giant Vodafone has made it Hutch-Voda and finally Vodafone. The ad campaigns were as good as mine, and sometimes even better.
Vodafone was known for its friendly packages with multiple services and a youthful service. Like my brand, Vodafone has gone from strength to strength, targeting the same youth segment. The high point was the IPL campaign was created by introducing zoo zoos, something Indians had never seen before and it became a rage, amongst youth skyrocketing the subscriptions.
But circumstances created by Jio had left us no other option but to come together as Vodafone-Idea.
Everyone doubted our partnership, so did I. Gathering a lot of courage and with a challenge to defeat the market disruptor Jio, Vodafone Idea stepped up and our total subscription base moved up to 372 million. We together hold the highest market share in the country at 31.73% right ahead of Jio at 30.26%. What we accumulated in more than 2 decades was acquired by Reliance Jio. It was hurting and is hurting us badly. The so-called beautiful fairy-tale marriage of Idea and Vodafone is now in danger. I can no more breathe easily, though on the paper I am the top company with market share, my partner Vodafone sitting in UK issues a statement accepting an inevitable end to my journey. I am not sure if this will be the same with other players but the story is much worse for my partnership with Vodafone.
But, the journey that had seen ups and downs. Wins and losses. Exciting memories of sharing the screen with Abhishek Bachchan and top-notch Ad agencies taking creativity to a new level. Travelling all across the country for beautiful ad shots, meeting Incredible Indians and whatnot. All this will be hugely missed as I am here to bid adieu to the imminent end to the life of Vodafone – Idea in India.
That’s okay, but where is Idea Sirjee?
This question takes me back to the good old days of tring tring tring tring…… hello honey bunny!