Sim verification has a silver lining? | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Sim verification has a silver lining?

Pakistan Press Foundation

Cellular firms will hate us for saying this, but the impending Sims re-verification process may unlock some opportunities for them. As per government directive, between January 12 and April 14, within next three months, roughly 100 million cellular subscriptions (about 60-70 million individuals, according to informal estimates) would have to be biometrically verified. (For more on that, read this informative report, “Cellular phone companies could be tried in military courts, published in Business Recorder on January 12).

Imagine this. Folks whose relationship with their operators had been reduced to mere account recharge would flip in these three months as they make a trip down to their operators sales centers and franchises. Chances of a consumer uprising are moot because telcos have got “messaging control”: the verification drive is on government orders and they have to comply.

Without expensive ads, a deluge of people is going to enter the industrys sales channel – for three months! If you e a telcos marketing chief, you shouldn waste this tremendous opportunity. You won keep on running those expensive TV ads and ignore this: people are coming to you with or without ads. Why don you up-sell them that 3G subscription you have been raving about? Surely, you can cross-sell that mobile wallet, too? (All cellular operators are branchless banking providers, too).

Granted that these potential benefits won offset the financial and operational strains the telcos would go through in verifying each one of their users. The government has reportedly allowed telcos some financial space – notably the sim activation tax waiver and the 56 percent discount on Nadras CNIC verification fee. Yet the cost of arranging, deploying and maintaining an optimal level of biometric-verification-infrastructure is going to be painful for the telcos.

But this is a task telcos are ordered to do and have no workaround for. So why not embrace the situation and exploit the hidden opportunity? In any case, we are sure that smart marketing folks would already be busy allocating more of their budgets to the upkeep and customer service training/instructions of their service centers and franchises rather than mindlessly spending on those frivolous ads on the airwaves.

The sales force better be ready to strike – and not be bothered by the traffic on their counters – if telcos want many more people subscribed to more of their services in a short time. The challenge is to make the process as smooth and friendly as possible – for customers as well as the staff.

Analysts like us would like this massive subscription purge to happen, for the sake of a meaningful industry analysis and the government, well, they would also get what they want. Telcos may also be better off taking the bitter pill, which will cleanse their subscription books and help them become part of the solution. And while they e at it, they may also reap some competitive rewards.

Business Recorder