In a bid to make further inroads into the remote villages of Maharashtra,telecom major Bharti Airtel on Friday inaugurated its first rural Iserve service centre in Ausarikurd,around 70 km from Pune.
Manu Talwar,chief executive officer,mobility (Maharashtra and Goa),told reporters that 4,000 large villages across the state had been identified for setting up such Iserve service centres. The aim is to have 1,700 centres operational by March this year while the remaining should be ready by August. Currently,Airtel service centres have a presence in 24,000 villages,(Mumbai,Maharashtra and Goa circle) covering over 65 per cent of the population in Maharashtra,Talwar said.
He said the initiative was based on consumer insight highlighting different behavioral patterns of customers in rural or emerging smaller towns and villages. The centres are aimed at penetration into the remote villages,offering rural customers enhanced network coverage at affordable rates.
Elaborating,he said the concept involves a combination of distribution and service and would serve as a one-stop shop for all mobile-related queries and provide various value-added services to those in the rural areas. The service centres will benefit those who are not tech-savvy or familiar with SMS. Consumer queries are directly routed to trained agents who will specifically address their needs. Identification and training of entrepreneurs who run multi-brand outlets in suitable locations with easy access,is an important aspect of the initiative, he said. A typical service centre (iServe model) is equipped with a multi-function printer and photocopier machine,thus making documentation easier for a new mobile customer in a village.
Pointing out that over 50 per cent of the companys 2.5 million telecom customers added monthly across the country are from rural areas,Talwar said Airtel,which has a total customer base of 88.38 million,would soon make its presence felt in small villages which have a population of less than 3,000 in the state.
Further,the company is set to unveil Krishi Labh, a service for farmers in which mandi (commodity market) prices would be made available to them through SMS. The service would cost Rs 5 for 10 days and updates can be obtained two-three times a day. Talwar said the service was recently launched on a pilot basis in all districts of the state and currently has a subscriber base of around 22,000. The project will be launched in other states soon. A farmer who wants to sell produce and is interested in knowing the commodity prices for mandis within a 100-km radius can benefit greatly from it. Farmers can also get updates on farming techniques,fertilizer availability and weather forecasts and the service would be available in several local languages, he said.
Last year,Airtel and Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative limited (IFFCO) had announced the launch of a joint venture,IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd,in a bid to provide a fillip to agriculture and the rural economy.