IP Telephony in Pakistan

iphoneBusiness Need

iPhone You wanted to launch its IP Telephony service in Pakistan. The iPhone You service was comparable to other telephony services being offered in Pakistan at the time but significantly lower in airtime charges. The launch would be limited to Pakistan’s commercial hub, Karachi, and slowly expanded to other cities around the country.

Our Proposal

the emagine group offered a comprehensive service that included reviewing legal requirements, market analysis, vendor negotiations, ISP testing, creative services and on-going customer service management. Our proposal would effectively make emagine the on-ground partner of iPhone You in Pakistan.

Our Solution

Since the intricacies of launch this type of service in Pakistan required a great deal of information gathering and decision making based on the information, our team moved in multiple directions simultaneously. Our first objective was to understand how the existing telecommunications regulations would affect the service and its successful operation during the launch and in the future. This required numerous calls and meetings with the telecommunication authority, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, to explain how our service worked and whether it fit within the guidelines of the existing regulations. Our objective was to understand if the service was legal in Pakistan and, if it was not, what changes we would need to make on the technical or administrative side to make it so.

At the time, there was no high bandwidth broadband service in Pakistan, so we were either looking at dialup connections or the fiber optic to home solution being offered by the WorldCall group. The problem that we needed to contend with was that dialup connections were extremely unstable and would lead to a great number of disconnections which would affect the response to the overall service quality.

Taking these factors into account, the emagine group developed a launch and marketing strategy that would first target the Internet Service Providers, then the computer hardware vendors with scratch cards and finally the direct customer with a wealth of information on how they could use, where the could purchase and who they should call with complaints.

While one team was negotiating with the PTA, another was approaching Internet Service Providers to arrange for stress and quality testing on their respective services to determine if there were going to be any problems using specific ISPs with the service. At the same time, we were also talking with the marketing and sales heads of the ISPs to determine if they would be interested in offering a white-box solution to their own customers. The white-box solution would allow the ISP to brand and market the service under their own name creating an additional revenue stream for their organizations. Additionally, we felt that if the ISPs would sell the service themselves, it would lower the customer service burden on iPhone You, as each ISP would tailor its offering to best run on their ISP, limiting the number of customer complaints being generated.

The WorldCall Group had recently launched their own IP telephony service built on their fiber optic to home backbone and they were an organization that was looking for a premium service that could handle the call load they were already facing. Our discussions with the WorldCall Group centered on the Karachi hub, even though they were operational throughout Pakistan, to purchase a bulk minutes package and distribute that amongst their own customer base to facilitate a much larger launch arc that if the service was independently offered. Through a great deal of discussion, an agreement was reached that promotional cards would be provided to a select customer base to determine if they liked the service and if they would use it if offered from the WorldCall platform. A number of promotional cards were distributed to WorldCall customers in Karachi through technicians that visited their homes on service calls.

Once all the discussions and testing with the ISPs of Karachi were completed, our design team began to put together the marketing collateral that would be used at the computer vendors’ shoppes and distributed to the end user. The collateral was developed in a manner that the key information in terms of usage, cost and process were central on the materials. A series of posters, promotional cards and brochures were developed, printed and provided to computer vendor’s to be distributed to their customers in 2 key locations – Karachi Defence, the posh, upscale community, and Karachi Saddar, the commercial center of the city. We believed that by centering our distribution strategy on these locations we would achieve the greatest number of interactions with the customer, while leveraging the people they trusted in terms of technology solutions. A regular channel of communication was created and maintained with the vendors to determine what questions the potential customers were asking and whether they were interested in the service or not, and if not, what the reasons were. We also designed the creative and promotional materials.

Simultaneous to the marketing activities, we established a small customer service back-end so that any questions, complaints or queries about the service could be handled in an effective manner thereby increasing the overall image of the product.

Result

The entire launch activity was centered around the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations when Pakistanis were making a large volume of calls to friends and family members abroad, so we knew that the volume would be high going out if the customer chose to use the service. To further increase the potential of customers using the new service, we offered free promotional cards giving them the equivalent of USD 7 to call their friends and family.

The overall launch activity was successful, but we did learn many things during the launch. While overall, the launch achieved great exposure and success with customers reporting that they liked the service, praised its ease of use and appreciated the calling rates while using the larger, more well-known ISPs, we did hear from some customers that they had problems with getting connected because of the lack of bandwidth provided by their smaller ISPs. Additionally, we were guided by customers that were interested in using the service that there should be a language option in Urdu so that the instructions were easier to understand on the call.

The management of iPhone You took the feedback and advice to mean that the service would be very successful in Pakistan with a few minor adjustments.

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