Mukesh Ambani disrupted the telecom sector when he announced the dirt cheap tariffs his company Reliance Jio was going to be charging its customers; a measly Rs 50/GB coupled with free voice calls, free texting and no roaming charges. Needless to say, competing telecom partners weren’t the only ones scrambling as we noted that customers too were excited by such an announcement. On September 5, the day the Reliance Jio SIM cards were to become available for the public, the wait time was in excess of three weeks.
It has been ten days since the Reliance Jio SIMs have been made available for purchase for all, however, the sheer demand has exceeded supply. That has not deterred people from trying to get their hands on the cheapest 4G service in the country. This morning, we found a fairly large line outside a Reliance Digital Mini store, which only grew as time passed.
The person first in the line had showed up at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time the store opened at 10am, there were close to 40 people outside the store. Many could be seen with paper cups sipping tea, while the make-shift restaurants in the vicinity provided bread and eggs to those who had queued up.
Once the store opened, the manager informed us that people have been lining up every day in the hopes of getting a SIM-card, unfortunately, the store was out of stock and would not be receiving any SIM cards for another 4 days. When asked if they were noting down people’s names as a reservation, they simply said that all sales were first-come-first-serve, and it was people’s luck if they would line up on a day when the SIM card shipment arrived. He did say that getting the connection itself was easy as they only required the Aadhaar Card for verification.
India currently has a mobile user base a little north of a billion, and with Reliance Jio entering the market, the number may not change drastically, but there is bound to be a major reshuffling in the numbers enjoyed by each of the main telecom operators. The lucrative pricing is definitely drawing in a large crowd, as we can see that even ten days after the launch, SIM cards are yet to be available in the market.
We’ve seen people line up for movies, launch of phones, the release day of consoles even, but all of that activity has generally been limited to the West, something we’ve loved to write and mock about. What I witnessed today, was a stark reminder that we’re no better. Personally, queuing up for anything other than entering a movie theatre (and other such places) or even to place an order at your favourite restaurant is acceptable. However, the frenzy around Reliance Jio is just on another level.
It is surprising to see so many people line up because Reliance has made the process of getting a SIM rather simple; download their Jio app, enter your details to reserve a SIM for yourself and proceed to pick it up from the nearest Reliance Digital Store. The people I ran into this morning were all there “hoping to get lucky” with a SIM-card, their Aadhaar cards in hand.
What was rather pleasant, however, was the fact that when the store did open, people didn’t barge in, a behavior we’re all too familiar with. People patiently waited for the clerks to be ready and then went in two at a time, only to be told that the store had no SIM cards available. Pity.