Small competitors normally must work hard to create distinctiveness in marketplaces that are dominated by others. Sistema Shyam Teleservices in India fits that bill. It has less than one percent market share, and needs to differentiate from other bigger carriers.
One way it might be doing so is by staking out a position against sponsored data or zero rating. But there are practical elements as well: Sistema support staff reportedly are fielding heavy volumes of inquiries about zero rating. And that obviously takes time the staff could be spending in other ways.
Sistema Shyam Teleservices is said by some to be the first mobile phone operator to do so. Vodafone might disagree. Vodafone is one of the larger mobile firms in India, and already has said it is opposed to zero rating.
Sistema Shyam, the Indian unit of Russia’s Sistema JSFC, retails mobile services in nine markets under the MTS brand.
Sistema argues that the debate over net neutrality and zero-rating plans has caused “much confusion” in the market both among retailers and consumers.
Sistema Shyam said that ever since the debate started, its retailers and customer service agents across its nine-circle operation have been beset by customer queries.
Perhaps the clear “no zero rating” tack was taken, in part, simply to restore a focus on more-relevant support tasks.
Sistema currently is training its 40,000-odd retailers in English and six regional languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati and Tamil to spread the word that its data plans will not push specific websites or content but give equal access to all lawful websites and applications on the web.
Sistema also is launching “OpenWeb” mobile data plans as a “pre-emptive move” to clarify its mobile data policies, since more than 50 percent of Sistema Shyam’s revenue is generated by data services.
Under the OpenWeb plans, the company will offer prepaid customers between 1 GB to 20 GB of data for Rs 299 (less than US$5) and Rs 999 (about US$15.60) respectively with a 28-day validity period.
Postpaid customers can buy monthly 10 GB and 30 GB data plans for Rs 599 (about US$9.40) and Rs 1,999 (about US$31) respectively.