Binu George, EVP at Asianet Cable Services, during his conversation with Santosh Abraham, Lead Analyst at Research NXT talks about the dynamic nature of the cable industry. He also explains how new TRAI regulations are going to change the complete structure of the TV cable industry and how marketing automation is going to play a vital role after that.
Santosh: What services do you offer as Asianet cable services?
Binu: Under Asianet satellite communication Ltd (ASCL) there are 2 main business which runs parallelly. One provides digital cable service, in the digital world it is called the multiple-system operator (MSO), that is actually the distribution of channels in the digital environment with all the latest TRAI regulations. The other main business is HD broadband, which is basically like any other internet service provider. We are a 550crores company as of now in Kerala.
Santosh: What is the reach of your services? Are you providing services only in Kerala or is it across the country?
Binu: Right now I would say 95% of our business is in Kerala. We have expanded to Karnataka in 2014 end and also launched in AP and Telengana one year back. It is the same MSO business we do in these states and soon we are planning to start our internet business there. We have got pan India license for both these business.
Santosh: What is the overall consumer base for your services?
Binu: We have a customer base of 15 lakhs for cable and 2 lakh plus for broadband.
Santosh: Which are the channels that you use to reach out to this huge customer base?
Binu: We are using television, radio, print, outdoor and online channels to reach out. So, practically we are using almost all the channels which are available.
Santosh: From the digital platform that you mentioned which one is the most effective?
Binu: For online we keep experimenting with the help of a vendor. We got into online advertising one year back. We have observed that these ads are reaching to the customers, but there is no major increase in the lead base or conversion from there. So, we do online quite a bit but as of now the effectiveness is little low.
Santosh: Are you using any sort of automation tools at your end for emailing and SMS or is it managed by the Vendors / Agencies?
Binu: We have a SMS tool for operation side but not for marketing. For eg if someone pays to the cable operator then he will get an automated thank you SMS, which is an operational SMS. But marketing related SMS are purely manual, like we decide to send SMS to so many lakh customers to update them about the plans, about up gradation to HD etc are purely manually planned and there is no automation.
“The new regulation which is released by TRAI, says that all the platform whether it is DTH, or whether it is OTT or HIPS should have similar way of operating and similar kind of offers & rates.”
Santosh: Have you developed any mobile app for your customers?
Binu: We do have an app but again not for marketing. It is used for lodging a complaint or making a payment and for our associates to register CRM subscribers. So app is again on the operational side only and not on marketing. For customer sourcing we still have to start using these tools.
Santosh: How are you leveraging the cashless and digital wallet technology at your organisation?
Binu: We provide online facility to the cable customers. We have an app for customers to pay online and it is a very easy to use. Customer just has to put their ID and password to know the due amount and pay on the spot. So basically it saves a lot of man hours and complications, like, if someone is coming with cash, then accounting it, then somebody going from the office to the bank to deposit the cash. So actually we can bypass so many steps. This payment automation is a beautiful thing that has happened to every industry.
As a customer you expect newspaper guy to come to your door to collect the billed amount, its the same thing that people expect from a cable operator. There is a huge mind set change required of a cable customer to move from that mode of payment to online. We are trying for last 2 years and we are progressing every month by giving offers and stuff like that, so that we can get lot of error free accounting and customer gets the benefit also. If I talk about the Kerala scenario, the online system of cable payment is very low among any operator.
Santosh: Is the model same for both DTH and cable in-terms of a-la-carte?
Binu: No, cable still means 200-300 channels and there is a fixed monthly rental. Whereas DTH is same since last 10 years. The new regulation which is released by TRAI on 3rd of March, says that all the platform whether it is DTH, or whether it is OTT platform like what JIO is giving or HIPS should have similar way of operating and similar kind of offers and rates. So no segment or industry should have an advantage or a disadvantage as far as the channel distribution is concerned. With that everything will be the same and the convectional collection model, marketing model will not work. It will completely stop and start a fresh. So if you do this research some six months later, the cable industry will give you a completely different input.
Everyone will have the same rate, all the pay channels have to be selected or a bouquet of pay channels to be selected as per the standard rate offered. So you have to be best in terms of giving customers experience, your entire payment mechanism, your marketing and how you upsell.
“For 15 lakh different customers and 15 lakh different combinations, you need a very robust system.”
Santosh: Do you feel that marketing automation is going to play a big role in your industry?
Binu: Yes, it will be very important at that time. Today we are giving you all these answers and 6 months later it will be completely different, i will be different, everybody will be talking different. Creating customer personas based on their packages will be very important. It will be very important to track customer behaviour on the platform. So marketing based on automation will play a big role rather than picking up phone to send a SMS or a tele-calling.
Santosh: There is a strong need of segmentation of customers, marking their journey and then planning messaging and then selling different packages and marketing once this new norm gets applied. So over next 6 months lot of things are going to change for you.
Binu: The two major changes, one that the software has to be so capable that a customer sitting at home should be able to select any of these channels whenever he/she wants. Today all the channels are available for the customer but tomorrow when these channels are available on a-la-carte, he should be able to pick up whichever channel he wants. For example tomorrow there is a very good movie airing on some channel, then today I should be able to subscribe to that channel without depending on office or call center. For 15 lakhs different customers and 15 lakhs different combinations you need a very robust system on payment, activation etc.
Another major change that needs to happen is actually the working style culture has to completely change. We have to completely unlearn and learn because 22years of experience will undergo a major change once this system is implemented.
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