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Virgin Mobile launch enthused people's imagination

True to Richard Branson's words, Virgin mobile launch in India was fun and creative - from unveiling the Virgin mobile logo in mid flight to Branson starring in a Bollywood flick.

, ET Bureau|
Jan 21, 2009, 06.05 AM IST
For all the hatke communication Virgin mobile has initiated, the trail goes back to the maverick owner and business tycoon Sir Richard Branson. In his autobiography , ���Losing My Virginity��� , Branson remarks, ���A business has to be involving , it has to be fun and it has to exercise your creative instincts��� . True to his words, Virgin mobile launch in India was fun and creative ��� from unveiling the Virgin mobile logo in mid flight to Branson starring in a Bollywood flick.

These stunts ensured that Virgin mobile became one of the most talked about brand launch in year 2008. That followed by some witty and irreverent advertising made everyone ��� including the target group sit up and take notice.

While there are no official figures available on the subscriber base Prasad Narasimhan, CMO, Virgin mobile, India, quotes two survey findings as a testament of Virgin���s successful foray.

���We enjoy 87% awareness amongst youth as measured in a recent AC Nielsen survey. Apart from that, a Mobile User���s Satisfaction Survey 2008 within SAARC countries has ranked us No. 1 on user satisfaction with over 95% of our customer stating that they are very happy,��� he states.

Apart from survey results, another feather according to Narasimhan is the silver Effie that Bates 141 won for Virgin mobile���s ���Think Hatke��� campaign. ���The Effie is particularly significant it reflected just the launch effort, covering only the first 25 days of our presence in the country.���

The positioning of the brand in India has been in sync with its global positioning ��� talking to youth below the age of 30 years. ���Advertising plays a crucial role in helping us ���hit if off��� with our TG, to build a relationship with them. It clarifies our brand identity to them, and helps us secure a place in their imagination. We speak to the youth in their language and in essence, we aim to be their buddy,��� says Narasimhan.

This is echoed by Subhash Kamath, ex-CEO of Bates, the agency which handles the creatives��� for Virgin mobile. ���It���s a very bold brand and young people enjoy it,��� he says. According to market estimates , the account size won by Bates inclusive of creative rights and launch activities was estimated to be in the region of Rs 85-90 crore.

Kamath explains, ���While youth was the focus, we had to be very sensitive in our communication because Indian youth is not outright rebellious and doesn���t buck the system, they are more about bypassing the firewalls of the system. The communication therefore was a combination of some smart inventive thinking and fun.���

While the communication has been clutter breaking, the jury is still out whether the brand has been able to acquire a sizeable subscriber base. Also, given that India is a market growing faster than China, industry observers also raise doubts over the narrow focus in terms of target audience which Virgin is targetting . Virgin mobile services are today available in 100 cities across 18 circles. The brand has partnered with Tata Teleservices to operate in the country and uses CDMA technology.

Reliance Communications acknowledges Virgin as a worthy competitor. ���Virgin has managed to create a niche for itself in the Indian marketplace by communicating its core brand essence effectively and in sync with their global brand positioning ,��� says Sanjay Behl, group head ��� brand & marketing, Reliance ADAG. While Behl says Virgin mobile ���is the first true MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) player in India��� , Narasimhan maintains, ���We are a brand of Tata���s totally focused on the youth.���

Pradeep Shrivastava , CMO, Idea Cellular says, ���In the last year, the GSM business overall has grown much better compared to CDMA. Virgin is a new brand and will take sometime to stabilize and become make a sizable operation. All depends on the statement of ambition and the investment that you can put to support that growth ambition,��� he says.

It���s got miles to go before it can rest and the road ahead is challenging. TRAI plans to issue MVNO guidelines in 2009-10 , which could see more international brands entering the country through the MVNO-route .

Branson during the launch had said, ���The Virgin youth service aims to acquire 5 million subscribers over the next three years, during which period it will become profitable too.��� Now whether the edgy communication has won Virgin the subscribers or will it have to again think hatke? only time will tell.
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