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Virtual Sim - Taking Telephony to Real India

The beauty of technology is that it removes man made barriers between the rich and the poor, the good the bad, and all the other splits of humans and the society. Puneet Mehrotra writes.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2011 17:07 IST
Puneet Mehrotra

The beauty of technology is that it removes man made barriers between the rich and the poor, the good the bad, and all the other splits of humans and the society. Technology penetrates the society and offers benefits to one and all. Electricity isn't concerned whether you have a billion dollars in your bank account or a Rupee, if you have a connection you get electricity. Similar is the case with telecommunications. For years India triumphed that the cell phone has bridged the economic divide and whether a CEO or a vegetable vendor, they have it all. Innovation is infinite and there is always scope of growth beyond what is now. The Virtual Sim is perhaps a good example about taking innovation to perhaps the deepest levels in telecommunications.

Taking Innovation even deeper
The rich were the first to own cell phone. The cost of a call was Rs.16 a minute, there was also a cost for incoming calls and handsets cost between Rs.20,000 to Rs.40,000. This was the 90's. In a few years it penetrated to middle class. In the mid 2000's with reducing costs of handsets and tariffs it reached even deeper levels and the laundary wala, the subzi wala, the ayahs and just about anyone owned a cell phone. Now can it grow any deeper? Well Comviva thought it surely could and it developed a solution called the Virtual Sim aimed at the larger part of the Indian population, which cannot afford a cellphone.

The Virtual Sim
India maybe shining, the economy growing and conveniences which were a dream still a decade ago is now a reality. Yet in all growth and India shining story, the larger population still does not have access to mobile communication service. In other words it is a huge untapped opportunity to telecom operators to extend mobile penetration to under served segments. The Virtual SIM solution enables access to mobile services who are currently unable to afford a mobile handset. So through a Virtual Sim, which means you do not have to own a cell phone or even a SIM card, you get access to mobility. According to Sangeet Chowfla, Chief Strategy Officer, Comviva, "Virtual SIM has the potential to connect the 2.7 billion unconnected people globally who are covered by a mobile network, but unable to afford a mobile handset or SIM."

How it works?
Subscribers gain an independent mobile identity even though they don't own either the cell phone or a SIM card. Needless to say someone has to have a handset in the family or the community to enable to it work. The benefit is the capital cost of multiple handsets in the same family or community is avoided.

The subscriber can choose his own operator plan, recharge his number and avail VAS and other services of his choice. Virtual SIM cuts down the capital cost of owning a handset. Virtual SIM is therefore both cost-efficient for users as well as being a profitable proposition for operators. In addition, by being able to top-up incrementally in small denominations, the person gains access to mobile communications affordably. From a telecom operator perspective, it enables the operator to extend mobile services to a much wider audience, affordably and cost-effectively, building a subscriber base for future mobile services.

The beauty of the solution is that is gets into a territory where the real India really is. Says Sangeet Chowfla "The correlation between access to mobile communications and increased economic growth has been reported widely. Virtual SIM extends mobile access to underserved segments, enabling economic independence and improved well-being."

Unilever, P&G, ITC have all found the benefits of going to this huge untapped rural market. It's perphaps the 1st time when a telecom company is doing the same. Comviva found a huge potential in driving innovation into this segment through its Virtual Sim.

Puneet Mehrotra writes on business and technology