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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Telcos rush to increase recharge options under lockdown

  • Paytm and Vodafone Idea partner to power prepaid mobile phone recharges
  • COAI asks states to issue requisite instructions to enable 'mobile recharging retailers' to open their outlets for offering telecom services to the public

MUMBAI : As the nation continues to stare at an extended Covid-19 lockdown, telecom operators are increasingly seeking out new ways to enable mobile recharges from requesting state governments to open retail recharge outlets to incentivising vendors. These measures have taken force after the operators extended incoming validity for millions of users.

In a renewed effort this week, Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI), representing private telcos, has written to various states. COAI has urged them to issue "requisite instructions in the state/UT to enable 'mobile recharging retailers' to open their outlets for offering telecom services to the public", and also issue passes for movement of select staff who manage these outlets. COAI is stressed on the fact that MHA has now clarified that mobile recharging retailers for the prepaid mobile telephone connections is included as a public utility

"Further, to serve these outlets, passes should be issued to select employees/staff and distributors of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs)," COAI said in letters addressed to chief secretaries of states.

COAI Director General Rajan Mathews said that telcos are engaging with local authorities to identify and finalise the list of locations where outlets can be re-opened outside of Covid-19 hotspots.

Today digital payments platform Paytm and Vodafone Idea also announced an exclusive partnership enabling Paytm to exclusively power prepaid mobile phone recharges for Vodafone Idea under ‘Recharge Saathi’ program. This is after, Vodafone Idea had previously launched program enabling every Vodafone and Idea customer to recharge for a friend, family and be be rewarded with a cashback up to 6% on recharges through MyVodafone App or MyIdea App.

Avneesh Khosla, Marketing Director, Vodafone Idea said, “It has been our endeavor to ensure that all our customers remain connected at all times, especially now, during the current national lockdown. We believe that this partnership with Paytm will help a large number of our prepaid customers who are digitally unengaged to remain connected without having to step out to recharge."

As part of the new program, Paytm Customer including pharmacists, milk booth operators, newspaper vendors, even individuals can recharge Vodafone Idea numbers and start earning. All recharges and transactions would happen securely on the Paytm app in the Prepaid/Postpaid payments section under the ‘Stay at Home Essentials’ category.

Through Reliance Jio’s Associate program announced last week, the operator allowed users to recharge for their others and earn a commission.

Last month, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel extended the validity of its prepaid plans till April 17, 2020 for customers using feature phones and/ or low-income customers. BSNL announced similar measures. The telcos also credited 10 talktime to low-income/ feature phone customers. Reliance Jio, had announced that it will give 100 minutes of calls and SMS free of cost to its JioPhone users. It has also announced that their users’ numbers won’t be suspended, if they don’t recharge their numbers.

Private telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea further announced the extension of validity for pre-paid mobiles accounts of low-income customers till 3rd May after Telecom Regulatory Authority of India scrutinised the math behind the selective validity extension they had earlier announced. The value of such benefits is more than Rs. 600 crore, according to COAI estimates.

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