Virgin Mobile: a hatke launch in India

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virginmobile He did it again. Richard Branson launched Virgin Mobile in India recently and almost everything about it is ‘going against the grain’. The advertising tagline, ‘Think hatke‘ could very well be true for the brand launch. Look at the facts:

– the brand has taken a route hitherto not thought of by other global brands, that of franchising. Since India does not allow MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). An MVNO is a company that provides mobile phone service but does not have its own frequency allocation of the radio spectrum, nor does it have all of the infrastructure required to provide mobile telephone service. So essentially they would be selling somebody else’s airwaves. Virgin has gone the franchisee route, where Tata Teleservices will do the selling through their network, using Virgin’s name

– they have chosen to target a ‘non-corporate’ audience in terms of handsets, pricing and brand personality. The launch has has caught the media attention like all Richard Branson launches (he apparently scaled the face of the Hilton Towers, Mumbai for the launch).

– they seem to have carried the ‘hatke’ promise in product features too. BusinessWeek writes that “Virgin’s team of 250 researchers spent nearly nine months studying their target audience. They discovered that Indian parents take away their children’s cell phones at night and read the text messages they send or receive—something kids hate. Virgin’s value-added service is offering a password-protected folder to the young so parents cannot read their messages’. The choice of technology (CDMA), handsets (starting from under Rs.2000) and plans seem to be tailor made for the Indian youth who seek affordable, value added handsets & features.

It also seems to be a win-win situation for Tata Teleservices, which does not enjoy an equity among the youth. The advertising features a young college girl, confessing to her parents that she ‘does not like boys’. The parents begin to blame each other and the girl casually mentions that she has to go to Goa with her college male friend. The parents agree to the trip, thinking she will be safe. The girl mischievously calls her male friend to confirm that the Goa trip is on. The ad is likely to appeal to the smart urban youth of India.

I think this launch holds a lot of promise. Exciting times ahead for the mobile user in India.

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