September 2010 | Tata Review

Ringing in the new

Gurinder Singh Sandhu, marketing head, Tata DOCOMO, reveals how the company has created a unique identity for itself and won over the youth segment within a year of operations

It’s a year since Tata DOCOMO burst upon the Indian telecom scene with its refreshingly new “Do the New” promise. Today, it reaches out to 30 million subscribers and 17 markets in India and has created a space for itself in the minds of young customers. In an interview with Tata Review, Gurinder Singh Sandhu, the company’s marketing head, reveals how Tata DOCOMO has managed to create a unique identity for itself and win over the youth segment within such a short span of time.
 
So far, so good
We have had a dream launch. Millions of customers across the nation have made us their brand of choice. Unlike other brands, we decided to enter the market with an ‘identity’ and not just a ‘logo’. Our identity as a youthful brand was established through a campaign that celebrated colours and a cool new sound, and became an instant hit.
 
The celebratory spirit was reflected across all our forms of communication. And in every communication, we approached the customers from a life-centric context and not the usual category context, thereby cutting through the clutter.
 
We also offered highly relevant innovative products around the intuitively appealing ‘pay per use’ proposition.The first product to be unveiled, which led the leaders to become the new followers, was the revolutionary ‘per second pulse’, where talk time was charged in seconds against the general norm of minutes. We pushed the logic of the ‘pay per use’ proposition to national long distance calls, international calls, roaming on voice and across a range of value-added services.
 
Responding to the overwhelming response to our launch, we ramped up our network in the launch circles, accelerating the roll-out of additional circles at the same time. Within a year, we were serving millions of customers across 17 circles — a speed of expansion unmatched in India’s telecom history.
 
Simultaneously, we also went all out to capture the hearts and minds of our customers through activities such as introducing India’s first mobile community — BuddyNet — and innovative products like ‘Diet-SMS’ and ‘My Song’. Pushing the ‘pay per use’ paradigm, we launched daily plans on voice and data, which liberated customers from monthly / fixed time period packs.
 
At Tata DOCOMO, our effort is to bring the simplicity and empowerment that is embodied in all our products to customer care. Here, transparency takes the form of post-call notifications of the talk-time consumed to the exact second; honesty is reflected in little things like not charging for missed-call alerts and free voice-mail services. The latest addition is our 24/7 online chat tool which allows consumers to interact with us on their queries.
 
Overall, it has been a journey of exhilaration, discovery and excellence.
 
The brand launch
Our marketing strategy revolved around the creation and management of conversations across two diverse groups — ‘mass market’ and the ‘opinion makers’. By getting the opinion makers to connect with the brand, we aimed at creating an aspirational attraction in the mass market.
 
From the beginning, we made sure that the brand engaged opinion makers in a two-way conversation through the internet. Over 8.5 million users interact with the brand across various social media communities. Tata DOCOMO is one of the most influential brands on Twitter, globally, with a Twitter Klout score of 64, which surpasses the likes of BBC Worldwide and Vodafone group. The brand engages 47 per cent of the Facebook audience in India on a daily basis.
 
In mass media, we started by establishing the sight and associated sound of the brand through a series of playful animation films. Set to our popular signature tune, the films help customers articulate the brand the way we would like them to.
 
The team worked with the objective of creating advertising that is impactful and will help Tata DOCOMO shout out louder than its share of voice in its chosen target group — the youth. In keeping with this, we made sure that each creative takes a relevant insight from their life, poses a question that they relate to and provides an answer within the telecom category through a certain product.
 
Brand positioning
Being the ninth operator in a cluttered market, it was critical for Tata DOCOMO to establish a clear and differentiated proposition. Extensive intelligence and research revealed the white space we were searching for — transparency, simplicity and relevant ‘life-centric’ innovation.
 
Synthesising this insight with our need to connect with the youth, we came up with the thought of “Why do the done… Do the new”. The Tata DOCOMO brand inspires people to challenge conventional wisdom and question paradigms. Simplifying customers’ telecom experience and standing by an honest promise are the brand’s core agenda. We convert these into reality by using product innovations.
 
An extension of our ‘Do the new’ promise has been CREATE — our activation platform. We are the first brand in India to establish a platform that allows talented customers to co-create the brand. CREATE has had successful programmes in animation, merchandise, music and photography.
 
Tata DOCOMO’s signature tune is one of the key pillars of the brand. The jingle was created by Ram Sampath. The brief was to compose a tune that would ensure that the brand was easily recognised and help with the articulation of the brand name.
 
It has been a huge hit with customers (not just ours) across age groups, geographies and brands. The jingle telegraphs the youthful, energetic, slightly mischievous persona of the brand. It is used as a branding device in all our television communications. It has also been leveraged as a platform for customer engagement on the CREATE platform.
 
The challenges for GSM services
More than challenges, there are significant opportunities that lie ahead. 3G is a big opportunity for brands to grow their market base (more importantly, corner the discerning customers who are likely to explore ‘a lot more’ that a mobile phone can do). It will also open up a new window for valueadded services (VAS) and what they can help customers do, with their phones.
 
Also, number portability will be a testing time for all players in the sector. Once the number is freed from the operator, users will gravitate to the brands they have affinity for, and this is a huge window of opportunity for Tata DOCOMO. VAS adoption is another big opportunity. The first step there is to identify lifecentric and relevant value-add that VAS can bring into the customer’s life.
 
Synergies with Tata Indicom
Both Tata Indicom and Tata DOCOMO work as closely-linked units. We were able to successfully leverage our common backend, infrastructure and partner relationships to drive efficiencies and a rapid roll-out across the country. We will continue to work together to achieve Tata Teleservices’s goal of becoming a 100-million subscriber brand by 2011.
 
Our vision is to become the most loved teleservices brand in India. To achieve this, we need to continue to simplify and enrich people’s lives through our refreshingly different products.

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