For the 100 million-plus consumers, lured by Reliance Jio’s disruptive Welcome and Happy New Year free offers in six months, the party has finally ended. Starting April, they will have to choose to stay or leave the Jio network, which has lined up easy and attractive entry points.
Subscribers choosing Jio Prime will pay a one-time fee of Rs 99 and Rs 303 a month for services which were completely free. A cross section of phone users ET spoke to suggested many would like to wait and see the quality and speed of data before switching alliance.
Shovon Dasgupta, a retired general manager at a PSU in Kolkata said he will join Jio Prime but will be on the lookout for any lapse in its services. Dasgupta makes his calls from Vodafone and used his Jio sim for surfing data.
“I will go for Jio Prime since its price point is better than competitors and do not mind paying the charges, but if the quality deteriorates, then I go back to Vodafone,” said the 69 year old.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, on Tuesday said Jio will start charging subscribers from April 1, but with sharp discounts for a year for its existing users and those who subscribe by the end of March.
“I would love to continue with Jio at the price points mentioned for Jio Prime, provided the service improves before March 31. If it stays like it is right now, I’d rather pay a few hundred rupees more for a reliable network,” said Shivam Lakhanpal, a 27-year-old social media marketer from Gurgaon.
From April 1 till March 31, 2018, Jio’s current users and those who come on board between March 1 and March 31will continue to get 1 GB of data a day plus all of Jio’s apps for Rs 303 a month & one time charge of Rs.99
Market leader Bharti Airtel offers unlimited calling plus 1GB of 4G data for Rs 345 for 28 days and 30 GB of data for 90 days for Rs 1,495. For Rs 349, No. 2 telco Vodafone offers unlimited calling and 50 MB of 3G or 1GB of 4G data for 28 days.
“As a heavy data user, I’m particularly excited about Jio Prime, which looks like real value for money. What’s even more assuring is that ‘Prime’ is a prepaid offer, which would ideally help a user control data consumption more effectively, also reducing the risk of inflated bills that, typically, happen in a postpaid scenario,” said Shantanabha Das, a 32-year old professor in a government college in West Bengal.
Das is open to “switching full time to Jio” if the network coverage stabilises in coming months, though he said Airtel, Vodafone and Idea would be compelled to match Jio’s rates to retain customers.
“If Vodafone matches Jio’s Prime rates in the near future, leaving them will be a tough choice for me as their voice quality is definitely superior at present,” he said. Consumer stickiness changes when free offers are withdrawn and analysts expect a 50% erosion of Jio’s user base.
“There will be commoditisation of the brand now. India is not a data savvy country yet and giving extra data will not work,” said brand consultant Harish Bijoor. Consumer becomes price conscious if he is using data for personal reasons like entertainment and is not paid by his office for professional cause, Bijoor adds.
“Some will change from Jio since the ‘free’ concept plays an integral role in consumers across the world. The moment you have to pay for it, you will feel the pressure to note the offers by incumbents,” noted Santosh Desai MD of Futurebrands India.
But for Dibyendu Sinha, 35-year-old software engineer in Kolkata, Jio Prime and the 20% additional data makes sense. Sinha uses at least 700 MB data a day and for him, the continuation of the freebies is worth it.
“I used Jio because services were available for free. But I would choose an operator that keeps me connected even when I go to remote villages and offers just sufficient data,” said Tulika Mazumdar, a 28-year old engineer based in Delhi. Low income group with data usage lesser than Jio’s 1GB limit a day will still be attractive. So, when Ambani said he will match any competitive offer and give 20% more data, it may not impact them. “I don’t use Internet much, so I will not want to pay Rs 303 just for unlimited voice calling,” said Suman Dubey, a 31-year old home maker from Mumbai.