New Delhi: In a bid to strengthen its position in India’s hyper-competitive telecom industry, market leader Bharti Airtel Ltd on Monday said it will invest as much as Rs2,000 crore over the next three years for its digital innovation programme, Project Next.

As part of the programme, Airtel will allow postpaid customers to carry forward the unused part of their monthly data quota to the next billing cycle and provide accident protection for smartphones.

Project Next, Bharti Airtel’s managing director and CEO of India and South Asia Gopal Vittal said, is the “first step towards transforming Airtel into a truly digital service provider and experience for our customers that is simple, transparent and is interactive."

Vittal did not disclose specific details of where this investments will be made, citing “competitive reasons".

Bharti Airtel’s move to improve its services comes at a time when its 20-year-old dominance of the telecom industry is being threatened by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and the proposed merger of the country’s second largest operator Vodafone India Ltd and No. 3 Idea Cellular Ltd, part of a consolidation triggered by Jio’s launch in September with an array of free services.

Jio’s impact has been such that aggregate revenues of Indian telcos fell for the first time since 2008-09 to Rs1.88 trillion in 2016-17 from Rs1.93 trillion the previous year, according to brokerage CLSA.

On Monday, Bharti Airtel’s shares rose 5.39% to Rs405.40 on BSE, outpacing the benchmark Sensex’s 1.13% gain.

“At Airtel, everything that we do starts with our customers and we are obsessed about delivering a great experience to them. We look at the customer journey holistically and have identified 17 moments of truth. At each of these moments, our aspiration is to eliminate customer frustration and make the experience better via digital innovation," Vittal said.

The digital innovation plans announced on Monday also include revamping its 2,500 stores across India and the “Postpaid Promise" plan.

It has hired UK’s 8 Inc. to design and conceptualise what they call the “Next-Gen Airtel Stores".

Under the Postpaid Promise plan, starting 1 August, all postpaid users will be able to “carry forward their unused monthly data quota to the next billing cycle". The plan will also allow postpaid customers to create customized solutions for the whole family and help them “protect their smartphones against accident and liquid damage".

“If a customer’s device is accidentally damaged, Airtel will arrange for a pick-up of the device, get it repaired from an authorized service center and deliver it back to the customer," the company said in a media statement. “Airtel Secure also comes with Norton Mobile Security Suite, which includes anti-malware protection, and an App Advisor that flags privacy risks such as intrusive behaviour. It also safeguards against phishing and malicious web sites browsed via Wi-Fi or carrier networks."

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