Excitel targets the parts of Urban India that are mostly ignored by the big names in the broadband business and their marketing strategy reflects that. The strategy seems to work for the broadband service provider, and as per TRAI’s Quarterly Report on the performance of Indian telecom services for July-September 2019, Excitel now has close to 3 lakh subscribers and captures 0.04 per cent of the market share.
Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd leads the chart with 51.76 market share and 35.59 crore subscribers followed by Bharti Airtel Ltd with 22.52 per cent market share and 15.48 crore subscribers and Vodafone Idea Limited with 20.41 per cent market share and 14.03 crore subscribers.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, when office employees — who could afford to work remotely — started working from home, it increased the need for new broadband connections. While it was not easy to activate a new broadband connection with all the restrictions in place, Excitel managed to install around 25,000 connections during the first phase of the lockdown.
The service provider started operations in September 2015 as an Indo-European venture. Excitel co-founder and CEO Vivek Raina has worked with Hathway, DigiCable, and Reliance in the past. We talked to Raina regarding how Excitel managed to activate so many broadband connections during Lockdown 1.0, how it aims to compete with the top 9 ISP in the country, as well as the rising demand of broadband connections.
Following is an excerpt of the email conversation:
The organisations where you have worked in the past are all established players and have a considerable market share. As the CEO and co-founder of Excitel Broadband, how do you plan to compete with the top 9 ISPs in the country?
Excitel is unique in its approach towards the broadband market in India, we believe that each and every individual in the country irrespective of where he is living in a city should have access to high-speed Fiber to Home (FTTH) broadband connection. Therefore you would find Excitel available in every nook and corner of a particular city and not just in rich or higher middle-class areas.
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Secondly, with a minimum speed of 100 Mbps on our Fiber plans and average revenue per user of R.500 (approx), we have ensured that we remain affordable to an average person living in urban India besides delivering much higher value for money. Lastly, all our plans are truly Unlimited without any FUP or restriction of any kind on data usage, a feature which strangely no other ISP is providing and ideally everyone should.
Owing to the factors described above we have broken into the list of top10 ISPs in just four years of existence and we plan to be in top three by 2021.
Are you planning to expand your service to other parts of the city? If yes, what’s your strategy and goal?
Excitel is currently operational in Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bangalore and Vijayawada. Going forward we are planning to cover the majority of A & B class towns of the country and by the end of 2021, we would be present in at least 50 of them. Our goal is to bring affordable FTTH (Fiber to the home) based wireline broadband to every nook and corner of Urban India and through it usher in real digital inclusion to millions of citizens living in such cities.
What sets you apart from the competition?
What sets us apart from the competition is our reach and focus towards lower-middle-class and intermediate-middle-class areas where at least 70 per cent of our urban population dwells. These areas have been always neglected by traditional telcos and ISPs, who like to focus on structured higher-middle-class areas for their Wireline rollouts.
Our packages are moderately priced to suit such areas and yet we try to deliver the best in class services and technology within that price. Our single-minded focus on FTTH rollouts helps us to achieve this objective. Besides this, all our packages are truly unlimited and there is no FUP or data limit associated with any of our packages which is again something unique with us.
You have activated 25K connections during the first phase of the lockdown. How did you achieve this feat?
Well, it started a week before the lockdown was announced. Most IT companies started advising their employees to work from home and the spectre of COVID-19 had started to force people, in general, to stay at home. People started spending a lot of time on the internet for their work, communication and entertainment-related needs. This heavy usage was something that wireless 4G networks could not handle due to their data limits and coverage issues. This led to a spurt in demand for wireline broadband. We installed almost twice the number of connections compared to a regular week then.
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Subsequently, when the full lockdown was implemented it took us a week or so to arrange passes etc for our ground-level employees and try to service our existing customers. The demand during lockdown continued to be high, but our ability to install got significantly diminished as the movement of staff in the field became difficult in spite of Broadband being categorised as essential service. A couple of weeks into the lockdown we were installing the same number of connections as before the lockdown with a much lesser number of sales and technical staff on the ground due to increased demand of wireline broadband services.
Did you see a rise in demand for broadband connection when India shifted to work from home mode? Do you think the demand will go down once everyone goes back to the office?
Yes, there has been a significant increase in demand for wireline broadband services when India shifted to work from home mode after lockdown. People realised that mobile internet services are good for social media and other such applications that don’t require steady speed over long periods but when it comes to heavy bandwidth-intensive applications and programs that require steady and consistent speed, one has to rely on wireline broadband.
Work from home (particularly video conferences, streaming OTT services, gaming, and most importantly online school classes for children — all these applications require consistent high speed and so there is no option other than a wireline connection. Even today, when we are at the fag end of the lockdown, the demand continues to be high because of these differentiators.
I think the demand will continue to be high because of two factors, primarily because people now have started to realise the difference between mobile internet and wireline broadband and how wireline broadband is a basic utility service that every household needs to have and the need of wireline broadband cannot be fulfilled by mobile internet.
Secondly, I think many organisations have realised that productivity of employees has actually increased ever since they started working from home as they don’t have to spend hours in traffic while going to the office or coming back from office. Therefore I believe work from home is going to stay with us and may become the first choice of many organisations. Consequently, I believe the demand for wireline broadband will continue to be high in future as well.