Telenor – The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid winner 2015
Project Sampark aims to address the socio-economic causes behind the mobile gender gap and increase women’s access to mobile phones in the rural areas of India. A study was commissioned through GFK in Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh. The research findings brought out that the incidence of mobile phone usage was significantly higher among males – 76 men out of 100 owned a mobile phone while only 29 women out of 100 owned one.
The research also revealed the facts around the plight of women and the gender bias that caused the skew in the ownership and use of mobile phones. Two key issues noticed behind low mobile penetration amongst women were: a) men are most often the decision maker on giving women access to mobile telephony and b) mobile services are confusing and perceived to be complicated. From time to time, social dogmas and diktats have also restricted women’s access to mobile telephony.
Project Sampark was conceived to manage these challenges through innovative product and unique distribution model to make easy and hassle free mobile services amongst rural women.
The pilot phase of Project Sampark was launched in August 2014 in UP (West) circle of Uninor. The pilot phase covers 87 villages and small towns with an addressable population of over 370,000 in Aligarh District. The project looked at approaching the barriers to mobile adoption through a two-pronged strategy to address key barriers like cost, culture, technical literacy and perception of values, which discourages women to adopt mobile telecommunication services.
Uninor joined hands with GSMA for Project Sampark. GSMA has committed a matching grant of $70000 under the ‘Connected Women’ program, which aims at reducing the mobile gender inequality in the emerging markets.
The usual approach to deal with barriers for women to access mobile telephony is to attack the barriers and attempt to demolish them. It was observed that in these areas men of the house usually make the decision on whether or not women should use mobile telephony. Instead of attempting to demolish this barrier, Project Sampark attempts to work with and around it — all the time keeping the end–objective of placing a mobile phone in the hands of the woman in mind. Once this objective is achieved, we believe that the benefits of bing connected will automatically flow and over time it will also address other perceived value and stigma in the society. In doing so, Uninor is testing an unconventional method to deal with a barrier – an approach that can lead to an easier and faster realisation of the end objective of narrowing the gender gap on mobile telephony access.
Bandhan Pack (Combination SIMs):
The Bandhan Pack is a unique product concept that links two SIMs in a manner that recharge of either SIM accrues additional benefits to the second. This kind of linkage has never been conducted in any telecoms product in India. These are a pair of SIMs that are linked to each other in a manner that recharge or talk time top-up of one SIM results in additional bonus minutes added to the second. Further, a pre-decided number of free minutes of calling are offered between the two SIMs. The concept being tested is of creating an incentive for a male member of the family to frequently top-up the SIM owned and used by the woman member. The platform also allows for future value addition through, for example, mobile health services that can be made available on the ‘women’s’ SIMs – creating benefits in addition to connectivity.
Key components :
Utilising women promoters to sell mobile products is a key component of Project Project. This approach of a women selling telecom services to women has proved to be more successful than the customer walking into a retail store with a male salesman. During the interaction with women consumers, these promoters have successful in addressing key challenges faced in using mobile e.g. overcoming technical barriers, understanding tariff plans, handset usage, and choosing the right products.
These promoters are supported by a Patna-based call centre DIAL. This centre is playing key role in ensuring continuity of the usage of Bandhan SIMs and enhancing the customer service for women users in rural areas. The tele-callers of DIAL are strengthening product knowledge of women promoters and supporting women subscribers on easy and hassle free operation of sold services. DIAL call centre managed by 37 young women from underprivileged section of society.
An awareness campaign called “Mera Mobile Mera Sathi” is also incorporated in Sampark project. A series of Nukkad Natak (street plays) and puppet shows are being performed in the project area to spread awareness on the benefits of mobile uses among women. Trained artists perform well scripted street plays at local market, villages hat and panchayat meetings and demonstrate how a phone can improve social and economic status of a women and help them stay connected, better informed and feel empowered. These street plays have spread the message of gender equality in general and the importance of women owning a mobile in particular.
The goal of the project was to acquire more than 62,000 customers in the first year (predominantly pilot phase) and then expanded to other circles and total of 200,000 subscribers in second years out of which more than 50% will be women. Basis the results and learning from the pilot phase the plans are to scale the project up to other areas within UP west.
Pilot phase of this project has indicated huge potential to address socio economic cause of mobile gender gap. Within ten months of the launch of the project, over 30,000 Bandhan Pack users have been added. The project also lends itself to a strong self-sustaining business case and has achieved breakeven within four months of its launch. Uninor is now evaluating its deployment to other circles in north India that have similarities of issues and market dynamics with UP West.