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Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea target MSMEs for future growth

India’s top telcos Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea (Vi) along with the likes of Tata Teleservices are focussing on the medium and small-scale enterprises (MSME) as these businesses get digitised and become better revenue options than the larger established corporates with fixed network service providers. 

MUMBAI: India’s top telcos Reliance JioBharti AirtelVodafone Idea (Vi) along with the likes of Tata Teleservices are focussing on the medium and small-scale enterprises (MSME) as these businesses get digitised and become better revenue options than the larger established corporates with fixed network service providers.

India’s largest telco Jio, in its just released annual report for FY20-21, called MSMEs the bedrock of Indian economy which lack access to integrated digital services and the know-how to adopt.

"JioBusiness is bridging this gap by providing enterprise-grade voice and data services, digital solutions and devices to small businesses which would make them efficient, competitive…," said the company in the report.

This is no surprise to analysts who estimate that with stability in the mobile customer segment, stickiness amongst the large corporates, the MSME segment remains untapped and will be the revenue generator post the pandemic.

"There are about 20 million small and medium businesses or what we call kirana stores in the retail segment. They are now largely fragmented but post Covid, are trying to digitise and this is where telcos can woo them with their cloud based enterprise solutions," says Rohan Dhamija, partner and head of India and the Middle East at Analysys Mason.

There are about 58 million MSMEs in India, a segment which contributes around 30% of India’s GDP and 40% of exports.

Jio's biggest rival Airtel too is targeting the MSME space while offering B2B solutions for its enterprise customers. Airtel has partnered with National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) to provide MSMEs with solutions like corporate mobile plan bundles, cloud solutions, network security, toll free calling amongst others.

Right now, about 10% of a telco's revenue comes from the enterprise segment and analysts estimate it to grow to 20%-30% in the next couple of years. Most of this growth will come from the MSME sector, say analysts.


A senior telecom analyst told ET that telcos are struggling to get mobile customers up the tariff order but this challenge will not happen in MSMEs.

"Today, a mobile customer on a Rs 200 plan may have sufficient data and not opt for higher tariff but the small business owner will go for a Rs 1000 plan as his business becomes digital and he needs more solutions," said the Mumbai-based analyst who did not want to be named.

Third largest telco Vi's solutions to the MSME segment include-scalable connectivity, security, remote working, and customer engagement – cloud telephony, G-Suite, end point security, business plus mobility bundled with data pooling, security and location tracking solutions, fixed line connectivity solutions.

Even those in the non-mobility business of telecom, like Tata Teleservices, have renewed their focus towards this section. In May, ET reported that Tata Sons is reviving telecom entity Tata Teleservices in a new avatar called the Tata Tele Business Services (TTBS), which will cater to the MSME segment.

TTBS will offer services including intelligent call routing, call monitoring and an option for a dashboard to check the number of inbound and outbound calls. The service can be used for banking, insurance, manufacturing, ecommerce, healthcare, fintech and SMEs, which deal with customers in large numbers.

"As we move towards greater use of data services, one can see their potential for MSMEs. With increasing scale of operations, they will need significantly more data services. Telcos recognise the potential of this market," said Mahesh Uppal, director at Com First, a telecom consultancy.