Reliance Jio Infocomm's offer of 30-minute free talk time two days after slapping a 6-paise per minute charge on interconnect calls may not be enough to calm the upset customers. A large number of customers who switched to the young network when it opened shop about three years back expressed a sense of betrayal after the voice tariff was introduced.
Jio's growth has so far hinged on the price advantage it offered, helping it to edge out Bharti Airtel as the second biggest telco in market share with 29 percent behind only Vodafone Idea. The company was expected to take over the top spot riding its offers of deep discount, but some market observers are sceptical that it may happen soon now.
Jio has been sending messages to users' phones that customers will get free talk time of 30 minutes the first time they recharge their phones. However, the fact that this will be a one-time offer may put off the users. This is a handholding exercise to help a smooth transition for subscribers," a report on the Economic Times website said citing an unidentified source. Jio website carries a clarification on why the charge on inter-network calls that invite interconnect user charges (IUC).
Jio's rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea had swung into action to lure customers disgruntled with the Mukesh Ambani-owned telco's decision, the report says. The move had prompted sharp criticism on social media where #BoycottJio began trending after the announcement. Many users reminded Jio, which has estimated 350 million customers of its promise of free lifetime voice calls when it started providing services three years ago and threatened to dump the provider, the report says. Some memes showed clips of Mukesh Ambani's announcement that Jio will never charge for voice and the audience's reaction. The social media wars have since intensified with the hashtag #ILoveJio #JioUsers also beginning to trend.
The Jio management's offer of free data on talk-time vouchers that will be of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 or Rs 100 denominations to make calls to customers of other networks have also not helped soothe customer anger.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been taking potshots at their disruptive rival while assuring their own users of continuity of their free unlimited calls. The Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel came out with the #AbToh-SahiChuno (choose right now) campaign as part of which it wrote, "For some unlimited calls means something else. For us, unlimited calls have truly meant unlimited calls. Switch to Airtel now. "Vodafone and Idea, in their respective Twitter posts, took a dig at Jio. Idea wrote, "Free calls on unlimited recharges. We truly mean it."
Reliance Jio recently launched its JioFiber, which is expected to disrupt the broadband market as Jio did to mobile telephony. The free call and falling data charges have been thought to have an important part to play in the success of Prime Miniter Narendra Modi's Digital India initiative.