A man leaves a Bharti Airtel store in New Delhi. (Reuters)
A man leaves a Bharti Airtel store in New Delhi. (Reuters)

To counter Jio, Bharti Airtel launches loyalty programme for prepaid users

  • The higher your tier, the better benefits you get
  • Airtel has also launched a new bundle worth 299 that provides Amazon Prime membership, 2.5 GB/day and unlimited calls for 28 days

Bharti Airtel has created a loyalty programme for its prepaid users, similar to what airlines offer to flyers. Now, subscribers will be able to reap benefits based on their tariff plans and consumption of digital services on the Airtel network.

Amid a bruising price war with Reliance Jio, this is Airtel’s first such exercise to retain its prepaid user base. Postpaid users already enjoy access to services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime bundled with their tariff plans.

Under the loyalty programme, prepaid customers subscribing to higher tariff plans will get access to better services and added benefits. Airtel expects to achieve twin objectives of increasing its average revenue per user, which has been under pressure after Jio’s entry in September 2016, while getting them to avail more services as the telecom major embarks on its journey to morph into a digital platform.

“We are also segmenting our customer base and ensuring that our high-value customers get VIP services," Adarsh Nair, chief product officer, Bharti Airtel, said.

The three-tier loyalty programme includes Silver, Gold and Platinum membership, with each tier offering a new set of benefits. Silver tier, with a monthly tariff of 119, will offer basic content, including AirtelTV and Wynk. Gold customers, with tariffs ranging from 119 to 499, will get access to add-on telecom benefits and premium content. Platinum customers paying a monthly tariff of 499 or more will get priority services such as a dedicated customer service desk apart from e-books and device protection plans, among others.

“We are also exploring verticals like travel, financial services, healthcare to expand offerings for Airtel Thanks users," Shashwat Sharma, chief marketing officer, Bharti Airtel, said. At present, users can opt for these plans only through the Airtel Thanks mobile app, which has replaced the My Airtel app. However, the company plans to extend this facility to customers who walk in at retail stores as well.

Stepping up digital services, especially music and content, has become imperative for telecom operators, as they fight to retain high-paying subscribers in a low-tariff market. Bharti Airtel’s and Vodafone Idea’s revenues from their respective wireless businesses dropped after Jio entered the Indian market with rock-bottom data prices.

Bharti Airtel’s profit plunged 72% from 306 crore in the third quarter of 2017-18 to 86 crore in Q3 FY19, while Vodafone Idea incurred net losses of 5,004.6 crore in the December quarter, compared with 4,973.8 crore in the preceding quarter. Airtel will announce its earnings for the March quarter on 6 May.