Vodafone Idea will not create digital assets; continue with the partnership model

Vodafone Idea said it would not build its own digital assets but would continue the partnership model, in which the various services offered by digital players are deeply integrated into its Vi platform. The strategy is entirely different from that of rivals Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, which have built a significant number of their own digital assets that can be used by subscribers of other telecom operators.

According to Ravinder Takkar, CEO and MD of Vodafone Idea, the company views digital in a way that may be slightly different from what other players see it. “We have a lot of digital players in the country who are good at building different sets of services. If my intention is to compete with them, then there is mistrust. To us, it’s very clear that we don’t want to be in their business, they’re good at their business and we’re good at our business. So there is an opportunity for us to partner and complement each other,” Takkar told FE.

In contrast, Reliance Jio has developed several digital assets in-house like Jio TV, Jio Cinema and Jio Saavn, while Jio Platforms has invested in several start-ups. Jio Platforms’ digital assets are worth billions of dollars, analysts say. Similarly, Bharti Airtel has also developed several digital assets including apps such as Xtream and Mitra, Airtel IQ Saas platform, Airtel Marketplace and its ad-tech platform. Airtel expects its digital offerings in cloud, cybersecurity, data center, Cpass, etc. generate revenues of several billion dollars in the coming years.

Takkar said the company adopted the partnership model a year ago and started to see results materialize. “I have a base of 245 million customers, a number of which use digital services, many of which do not. So I want them to discover digital services, to create stickiness. It gives us a work environment where I’m able to integrate their (digital reader) applications much deeper into my network than I was competing with them,” he said.

For example, the company has partnered with start-ups like Apna, Enguru, and Pariksha to provide employment and training opportunities to its subscribers. For online games, it has partnered with Nazara Technologies. Its Vi Ads ad-tech platform was built in partnership with TorcAi.

The company is betting on partnerships to boost its average revenue per user (Arpu) as the company is unable to match the capital expenditures of rivals Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

Sylvia B. Polson