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Tatas, Virgin plan March launch for branded mobile phone service

Tatas, Virgin plan March launch for branded mobile phone service
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First Published: Mon, Feb 04 2008. 11 37 PM IST

Call waiting: A file photo of shoppers at the Virgin phone store in Piccadilly, London. With the Tata alliance, Virgin will gain a foothold in India without having to invest in and operate a phone net
Call waiting: A file photo of shoppers at the Virgin phone store in Piccadilly, London. With the Tata alliance, Virgin will gain a foothold in India without having to invest in and operate a phone net
Updated: Mon, Feb 04 2008. 11 37 PM IST
New Delhi: India’s Tata Teleservices Ltd and British billionaire Richard Branson-owned Virgin Group Ltd are aiming to launch Virgin Mobile, the newly branded mobile phone service, within the first week of March.
The partnership between the two companies has not yet been made official, but the launch was confirmed by a senior executive from Tata Teleservices, as well as two senior advertising professionals close to the development.
Call waiting: A file photo of shoppers at the Virgin phone store in Piccadilly, London. With the Tata alliance, Virgin will gain a foothold in India without having to invest in and operate a phone network on its own.
“It is aimed at targeting the youth segment, I cannot elaborate more,” said an executive at Tata Teleservices, who did not wish to be identified. This move comes after Tata Teleservices’ recent announcement on repositioning its brand from a mass-market to a youth-centric brand. With this alliance, the company seeks to leverage Virgin’s vibrant brand appeal among India’s under-25 youth segment for competing effectively with aggressive rivals such as Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Essar Ltd.
Virgin Mobile’s media buying and planning is being handled by MindShare, while Bates David Enterprise has won the creative rights for the account, which, including the launch activities, is estimated to be around Rs85-90 crore, according to a senior advertising executive, who did not wish to be named.
“The Virgin Mobile campaign is using a multimedia approach with concentration on television and outdoor media,” said Subhash Kamath, chief executive, Bates Asia, while declining to disclose further details.
The company plans to have a strong presence on the digital platform as it has invited pitches separately from digital agencies. Bates Asia’s 141Sercon is one contender. “We have already pitched for Virgin Mobile’s online account. They have not yet finalized their partner,” said Ajit Narayan, head of strategic planning at 141Sercon.
Another advertising executive, who asked not to be identified, said: “The new mobile service will carry the logos of both Tata and Virgin Group, and the brand colour will be primarily red.”
Virgin operates its phone services business as a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, which, unlike other phone firms, does not have to own any radio spectrum or telecom infrastructure. India’s department of telecommunications, or DoT, currently does not allow companies to operate as MVNOs in the country.
While this will be the first time Tata Teleservices will be partnering with a brand such as Virgin, Branson has already formed two similar alliances globally.
Virgin Mobile USA Inc., a joint venture between the Virgin Group and US’ third biggest wireless operator, Sprint Nextel Corp., was launched in 2002 and serves around five million Americans, primarily between 14 and 34 years of age. Two years later, the Virgin Group and Bell Mobility formed Virgin Mobile Canada.
With the Tata alliance, Virgin will gain a foothold in the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market, which adds at least eight million phone customers every month, without having to invest in and operate a phone network on its own.
Virgin is also a partner with Fever 104, the FM radio stations operated by HT Media Ltd, the publisher of Mint.
priyanka.m@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Feb 04 2008. 11 37 PM IST
More Topics: Tata | Virgin | Mobile | United Kingdom | MindShare |