Airtel: Case Study on its Business Model and Marketing Strategy

Updated on: May 15, 2024
Entire Airtel Case Study on its Business Model - Featured Image

Bharti Airtel is one of the three telecom giants of India, known for its distinct and engaging digital marketing strategies and campaigns. With its promotional efforts directed towards all who can buy a SIM card, they are for their young and energetic brand image.

Airtel Marketing Strategy

Yet with Airtel’s amazing efforts to market itself, competitors such as Reliance Jio have wreaked havoc on the industry with their cutthroat pricing and a stronger digital marketing plan. In this research case study, we will take a deep dive into Airtel and its competitors, target audience, digital marketing and advertising strategy and much more! All the information in the case study is up to date till the year 2023.

Let us begin this case study by learning more about the marketing strategy of Airtel.

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About Airtel

Bharti Airtel, commonly known as Airtel, is a telecom giant and second-largest in India in terms of the number of subscribers. Founded on 7th July 1995 by Sunil Mittal, Airtel is the first Indian telecom provider to be honored with Gold Certification by Cisco. Today airtel is not only restricted to mobile services but also includes Airtel Payments Bank, Airtel Thanks App, Wynk Music, and a wide range of other services.

By being a successful company over the years in a sector that faces numerous challenges like limited spectrum availability, and tariff war the company has set a benchmark with marketing being one of the reasons for its growth. However, the rapid growth of Reliance Jio over the last 4 years is a growing concern for the company. Reliance Jio is giving a cut-throat competition while the race to roll out 5G in India gets intense between the telecom companies.

With “ Hunger to win customers for life” as its mission, airtel thrives to be on the top of the leadership board.

Current News about the brand 

  • Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”), India’s leading telecommunications services provider, announced that its ultra-fast 5G service is currently available in 500 locations across the country on March 24, 2023.
  • Airtel’s network was expanded to 235 places, making it one of the largest rollouts to date. As the company continues to develop its network, Airtel 5G Plus is now available in every major city, from the upper northern city of Kashmir to the southernmost point of Kanyakumari.
  • Airtel 5G Plus provides three compelling perks to subscribers. For example, it makes use of a technology that has the most widespread use and the most advanced ecosystem in the world. This ensures that the Airtel network operates flawlessly on all 5G smartphones in India.
  • The company claims to give the finest experience possible, including call connect times that are 20 to 30 times faster than they are presently, as well as excellent audio quality.
  • The Airtel 5G Plus network is more ecologically friendly due to its exclusive power reduction technology. Airtel has been at the forefront of 5G innovation, constructing India’s first live 5G network in Hyderabad, the country’s first private 5G network at the BOSCH facility in Bengaluru, and collaborating with Mahindra & Mahindra to build India’s first 5G enabled auto manufacturing facility at its Chakan facility.

User persona

Buyer’s Persona

Name:

Aayusha

Place:

Mumbai

Age:

23 years

Profession:

Entrepreneur

Motivation

  • An international SIM card allows you to switch from domestic to foreign numbers.   
  • One single SIM card covers connectivity internationally.
  • Feel safe while traveling alone across India as sometimes accessing public wifi is not safe for operators with personal data.

Interest & Hobbies

  • Reading
  • Playing basketball 
  • Design
  • Surfing Instagram 
  • Shopping
  • Trekking
  • Traveling

Pain Points

  • Though an internationally activated plan is not required outgoing services get turned off.
  • A basic plan recharge of  49 or 399 is required 
  • High pricing

Social Media Presence

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

 

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For now, let us continue with our case study.

 

Marketing Strategy of Airtel

As far as the social presence of Airtel & its competitors is concerned, Jio won comprehensively in the number of followers on Instagram. Airtel’s presence on social media has improved, its Facebook followers are growing to 500 million users. Even on Twitter with 2.5 million followers, @Airtel_Presence makes sure to get all the tweets with Airtel in its context and clear their queries.

Marketing strategy of Airtel Social Media Marketing of Airtel

Although their engagement rate is something the company has to work on. The above graph shows their Facebook engagement. When it comes to YouTube, Airtel is doing a decent job with more than 1.1k videos and almost 20 million views but loses the race with Jio in subscriber count: 342k to 2.63 million.

Now let us take a deeper dive into Airtel’s own digital marketing and campaign strategy.

How does this brand use Digital Marketing in its strategy?

Last year, Airtel began an influencer-driven campaign to market its 5G services. The campaign, titled “Future is Airtel 5G,” featured 27 renowned Indian influencers. It took home the prize for Best Influencer Marketing Campaign at Digies 2023, with a jury score of nine out of ten.

Airtel recreated the in-stadium experience of Kapil Dev’s memorable 175 not out against Zimbabwe at the 1983 Cricket World Cup using cutting-edge immersive video technologies via its high-speed 5G test network. A unique 175 Replayed video in 4K mode brought to life critical moments from the contest, which had no video footage owing to a TV technician’s strike.

India’s first hologram engagement with Kapil Dev enabled by 5G made the occasion much more thrilling. The renowned cricketer’s virtual avatar, powered by Airtel 5G and there on stage, interacted with the audience in real-time and took them through the key moments of his inning.

Marketing and advertising campaigns

Jingles like “ Har Ek friend Jaruri Hota hai”, and “Jo Tera hai, Wo Mera hai” for Gen Z have worked brilliantly for them while taglines like “one-touch Internet” attract Gen X and elders.

  • Airtel has done several such campaigns with taglines like “Sab Kuch Karo, Fir Sahi Chuno”
  • The Smartphone that works, India’s first 4G network and #expressyourself; has proved their obsession to win customers through an exceptional experience.
  • Famous personalities like Sachin Tendulkar, A R Rahman, and Vidya Balan have also endorsed the brands earlier which has built a positive image among the people.
  • Airtel follows a “matchbox strategy” that expands regularly in rural India.

The campaigns achieve their goals smartly through their dynamism, and warm, friendly appeal; all the more it helps them gain the trust of their customers. With their priority service as a part of platinum care, they have also attracted hustlers who like hassle-free service.

Bharti Airtel’s new campaign named “Öpen to Question” highlights its aim to resolve queries of every single customer, learn quickly from failures, and ensure they don’t get repeated. With this Airtel has secured top position on the ad diagnostics index.

Recently the brand launched a new marketing campaign to showcase the immense benefits of Airtel 5G Plus for its customers. The campaign presents the advantages and possibilities of the network in a modern and trendy way.

Airtel has also introduced its banking in 2017 Airtel Payments Bank, India’s first payments bank aims to take digital banking services to the unbanked over their mobile phones quickly and efficiently which contributes to the Government’s vision of Digital India and Financial Inclusion. However, this is constrained to only Airtel users.

Top 5 Competitors of Airtel 

  1. Reliance Jio: When Reliance Jio entered the market in 2016, it upended the Indian telecom business by providing high-speed 4G broadband at absurdly cheap pricing, sparking a price war and resulting in massive customer acquisitions. Jio had a strong 4G network with extensive coverage, quick internet, and affordable data prices. In order to build a complete ecosystem, the business also expanded into other digital services including Jio Fiber and JioMart.Jio’s continual technological and pricing innovation made it a strong opponent.
  2. Vodafone idea: It was formed in 2018 as a consequence of a merger between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. By pooling its resources, it hoped to compete with Airtel and Jio. Vi has a large network presence in India and provides a number of data options, including 4G services. It also had a significant brand presence. Vi was facing financial difficulties and was working on network integration and strengthening its services in order to compete effectively.
  3. BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited): It was a state-owned telecom company with a substantial customer base, particularly in rural areas. It competed with private telecom operators like Airtel by providing low-cost services. Because of its enormous reach, BSNL had a massive network infrastructure and a strong client base, particularly in distant areas where private carriers had limited presence. To compete more effectively, BSNL faced financial and operational issues and needed to update its infrastructure.
  4. Tata Teleservices (Tata Docomo): Before its merger with Bharti Airtel, Tata Teleservices was a major participant in the Indian telecom business. It provided GSM and CDMA services. Tata Teleservices had a strong brand and presence in several Indian circles. It provided affordable voice and data services. Bharti Airtel purchased Tata Teleservices’ consumer mobile business in 2019, strengthening Airtel’s market position.
  5. MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited): It primarily served metropolitan areas such as Delhi and Mumbai. In certain areas, it competed with Airtel. MTNL was present in major urban areas and provided landline, internet, and mobile services. MTNL, like BSNL, had financial and operational issues, as well as the need to update its services.

Example of a Failed Campaign Or Backlash from Viewers

Airtel started the “Airtel 4G Challenge” campaign in 2017 to market its 4G network as the fastest and most reliable in India. The campaign stated that Airtel’s 4G network was faster than its competitors, notably attacking Reliance Jio’s 4G network. Backlash Consumers and competitors instantly criticized and reacted negatively to the ad. Reliance Jio, in particular, took issue with Airtel’s claims and accused the firm of dishonest advertising.

Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) involvement in regulation: ASCI was made aware of the problem after receiving numerous complaints against Airtel’s campaign. Response from the brand modifying the campaign Airtel changed their advertising in reaction to the issue and regulatory scrutiny.

The business made the decision to change the adverts to make it clear that the claim was supported by data from Ookla’s speed test. Based on the findings of its speed tests, Ookla, a company that provides web-based network diagnostic software and conducts international broadband testing, had in fact named Airtel the “Fastest Mobile Network” in India.

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FAQs

What are the Marketing Strategies of Airtel?

Airtel goes beyond calls and data, offering plans for every need. They reach customers everywhere through online platforms, stores, and partnerships. Social media and celebrity endorsements keep them connected and relevant, solidifying their position in India’s telecom market.

What is the Competitive Strategy of Airtel?

Airtel plays to win. They keep their customers happy with rewards and extras, making switching a hassle. Special plans for students and professionals show they care about everyone’s needs. By building a huge network and partnering with big names, Airtel makes it tough for anyone to compete.

What is the Positioning Strategy of Airtel?

Airtel positions itself as a provider that offers connectivity, understands customer needs, delivers value, and prioritizes accessibility and convenience. They strive to be a one-stop shop for all things mobile, catering to diverse segments and building a strong brand image through strategic partnerships.

What is the slogan of Airtel?

Airtel doesn’t have a single, consistent slogan throughout its history. They’ve used various slogans over time to reflect their current marketing focus. This is one of the examples:
Aisi Azadi Aur Kahan ( this slogan was used for the idea of freedom and connectivity)

What is the Pricing Strategy of Airtel?

Airtel keeps prices in line with the competition. They also follow government rules to make sure everyone gets a fair deal. To fit everyone’s needs, they offer tons of plans with different features.

Conclusion

With its campaigns, Airtel wins over its customers and attracts a wide range of people from different walks of life. It also has international business holdings across Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Channel Islands. The company even plans to offer satellite broadband services in India by 2022.

As an organization grows bigger in scale, it has to deal with controversies and Airtel is no exception. It has been working on its allegation of privacy as well as has been in the news for it stands for social causes, the recent one being the Kerala floods. During it all, Airtel has been resilient and shown positive growth in its net profit, with a year-on-year increasing profit margin.

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Aditya Shastri

Lead Trainer & Head of Learning & Development at IIDE

Leads the Learning & Development segment at IIDE. He is a Content Marketing Expert and has trained 6000+ students and working professionals on various topics of Digital Marketing. He has been a guest speaker at prominent colleges in India including IIMs......[Read full bio]

2 Comments

  1. Yash Patil

    “Airtel’s wide-reaching campaigns and international presence showcase its influence, despite facing controversies. Their resilience and positive growth highlight their adaptability. IIDE’s focus on practical solutions aligns well with today’s data-driven world. Thanks for sharing this insightful case study!”

    Reply
  2. sneha

    Airtel’s innovative campaigns truly connect with diverse audiences, showcasing their commitment to excellence in digital marketing.

    Reply

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