Building a Sunshine Nation

India has one of the highest Solar potential in the World. Can it tap into it build a sustainable economy?


Source: The Hindu

India generated 68% of its electricity from coal in the fiscal 2013-14. The inability of Coal India Ltd (the state-owned monopoly) to ramp up coal production resulted in 65,000 MW of installed capacity being stranded, causing a power deficit of 5.4% in the fiscal 2013-14. To plug the gap, imports rose to 152 million tonnes in 2013-14 (20% of total coal requirement) resulting in higher power prices. This situation, together with climate change imperative impels a rapid movement towards greener and cheaper sources of power, primarily solar energy.

Rising dreams and falling prices


Source: Financial Express


The movement is already under way as a result of Government’s ambitious ‘National Solar Mission’ announced in 2009 which envisages 20,000 MW solar capacity installed in the country by the year 2022. The Narendra Modi-led Government raised that target last month to 1,00,000 MW of installed solar capacity, inviting domestic and foreign companies to invest about $ 100 billion in the country’s Solar power sector. The buoyant mood behind this ambitious target is supported by 4 key factors. First is the abundant solar resource availability. India receives about 4.5-7 kWh/m^2 of solar energy on average with 1500-2000 hours of sunshine per year (depending on the location). This is enough to generate power more than 1000 times the current demand. A second factor is the falling prices of Solar Photovoltaic modules. Large-scale production, especially in China, has caused the module prices to drop by 80% between 2008 and 2014, dropping by 12% last year alone. As a result the tariffs for grid-interactive solar power have fallen from Rs.17.91/ kWh in the year 2011 to Rs. 5.73 /kWh in the latest round of auctions held by the Andhra Pradesh state government.

Nearing Grid-Parity

The third factor has been the tremendous rise in efficiencies of solar PV-modules. Over the last 8 years, research and mass-scale production have resulted in rise of conversion-efficiency for crystalline silicon modules from 12% to about 19% and that for thin-film (Cd-Te) modules from 8% to 13%. Companies like SunPower (in USA) are already manufacturing silicon modules with 25% efficiency commercially. Scientists at Fraunhofer Institute in Germany recently developed solar cells modules with 44.7% efficiency. This combination of falling costs and rising efficiencies has resulted in solar power approaching grid-parity. KPMG, a consulting firm, predicts solar tariffs to achieve grid-parity by the year 2018-19. Solar power is already more economical than diesel power with an average tariff of Rs. 7/kWh against Rs. 15/kWh for the latter.

The fourth significant factor has been the Government support to build the solar power sector. The ambitious ‘National Solar Mission’ provided various fiscal incentives like preferential feed-in tariff, excise duty concessions, wheeling-charge concessions, income-tax holiday, an 80% accelerated depreciation on solar-equipment, etc. Besides, off-grid solar plants receive a capital subsidy of 30% of the entire-project cost (and of 70% in North-eastern states and J&K). These factors along with falling prices have resulted in rise in installed capacity from 161 MW in 2010-11 to 2,319 MW in 2013-14.

Sunshine on the horizon


Source: Aditya Greens

This is however only a small amount of the total potential, which is estimated to be in the range of 7,00,000 to 11,00,000 MW. For the non-grid applications, Rooftop solar represents the most lucrative opportunity. It can fulfil 30% of the entire demand generated during the sunshine hours. The example of Germany shows that with robust and attractive policy, Rooftop solar can be effectively leveraged upon. Out of the total Solar capacity in Germany, 80% is via Rooftop solar modules which can meet about 10% of total demand on a typical summer day.

Apart from using Photovoltaic modules, Solar energy can be harnessed through thermal systems as well. In this domain, Solar cooking and Process-heating are the major segments. Of these, Solar cooking is the most mature category with an estimated potential of 2.6 lakh m^2 collector area and target installation sites like temples, hostels, canteens and prisons. Already, successful examples of mass-solar cooking like Shirdi temple and IIT-Roorkee’s student messes exist. But the most lucrative opportunity (of about 46 lakh sq. Metres of collector area) lies in the industrial heating segment. Indian industry accounts for 40% of the total primary energy consumption of which thermal-form accounts for a massive 70%. Solar process heating can easily replace Diesel, LDO or FO-fired boilers in industries like Textiles, Dairy, Pulp & paper and Food processing.

Clouds spoil the mood

Despite massive potential and Government’s good intentions, severe challenges face the nascent Solar power sector in India. The utility-scale projects through PPA-mode (Power Purchase Agreement) have persistently been under the shadow of poor financial condition of the state-owned distribution companies. The retrospective tariff reduction by Gujarat’s power utility and non-honouring of PPA agreement by Tamil Nadu’s power utility has made the investors apprehensive, lately. The health of the utility-scale projects via REC-mode (Renewable Energy Certificate) is even more precarious. Non-enforcement of RPOs (Renewable Purchase Obligations) by the state-governments has forced the REC prices to tumble by 70% from Rs. 9.5/kWh to Rs. 2.85/kWh. Only 2% of total solar RECs were traded in October 2014 as compared to 18% in April 2012. This has put projects of 500 MW capacity (1/6th of India’s current solar capacity) in a cash-crunch.

For the Rooftop solar industry, the main hurdle has been the indecisiveness in coming up with an effective policy for residential rooftops. In August 2014, a 30% capital subsidy was announced for Rooftop installations but this was applicable to only Government buildings. Moreover, there have severe delays for the last 8-10 months in subsidy payments as the MNRE budget was reduced from US $246 million in 2013-14 to US $72 million in 2014-15. A local rooftop installer, Zolt Energy’s Pradeep Palleli, said “Announcing subsidies and not releasing it in time is really a major hurdle hindering the growth of the rooftop solar industry.” Even the Solar thermal industry has hit a road-block after the Government withdrew the 30% capital subsidy on solar water heaters on October 1, 2014.


Who will make them?

The weakest pillar in India’s solar industry however is the crippled manufacturing-base. Global over-supply of cheap modules from manufacturers in China and USA has put many domestic-manufacturers out of business. For those who are left, capacity-utilization of factories remains below 30%, putting them on verge of bankruptcy. The high cost of domestic finance has been another major disadvantage. Solar-developers are getting access to loans at 3-4% from US Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) while domestic interest-rates remain above 13-14%. Solar-developers have taken loans in excess of US $1 billion from the US Ex-Im Bank. But these come with riders to procure modules from US-based manufacturers, thus putting Indian module-manufacturers out of business.

Government to the rescue

To eliminate the barriers and shortfalls in the sector, the Government has to take proactive steps. Foremost among them should be creating an environment of certainty and stability, where in, programs are sustained and incentive-payments never delayed. To reduce the debt costs for developers, funding avenues like long-tenure, tax-free solar bonds. Lastly, the government can also leverage the ‘Make in India’ campaign to create a robust and sustainable solar-manufacturing industry in the country. Solar-sector focused Manufacturing and Investment zones should be set up to provide business friendly ecosystem along with superior physical infrastructure.

Work has already begun on many investment-encouraging initiatives. As a result, India is building the world’s largest solar-power plant in Rajasthan with a capacity of 4,000 MW, which is expected to bring the cost of solar down to retail tariffs (and even lower in some locations). Big business-houses like Tata-group, Mahindra Group, Reliance, NTPC, Aditya Birla Group and others have already planned investments worth thousands of crores to make the best of the solar-opportunity. The US $ 100 billion solar-investment plan by the Modi Government takes India’s commitment to solar technology to an unprecedented level. The sun has begun dawning on India. Combined effort by Government and Businesses can take it up the horizon and shine upon India’s future.



Harsh Jain is a second year student at IIM-Ahmedabad. He completed his graduation in mechanical engineering from IIT-Roorkee. With extensive research exposure in the form of market research projects and industry review reports in the energy sector, Harsh is an environment enthusiast and actively follows the latest trends in the power and automobile industries.


What’s clipping our wings?

Source : Bloomberg News

The Indian civil aviation industry, with a size of $16 billion, is among the top 10 globally. It has grown at a CAGR of 17%, which, if sustained, could make it the largest aviation market by 2030. Entry of Low Cost Carriers and thrust on development of modern airports has expanded the market from business class and corporate to the middle class, who have the potential to become the largest and most lucrative customer segment.


Figure 1: Indian commercial aviation sector

The Make-In-India program is designed to facilitate investment, foster innovation and build manufacturing infrastructure in a number of key segments that are instrumental in India’s growth and progress. In the aviation sector, the government has announced a number of key policy initiatives, such as 100% FDI in greenfield airport projects and 49% FDI in domestic passenger airlines, along with budgetary support in terms of investment and exemptions. However, there exist a lot of regulatory and taxation hurdles for airline companies in India, and measures need to be taken to support the development of the aviation sector in India.

Essential Air Services Fund (EASF): Connectivity between Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities is low due to air carriers refusing to operate flights on those routes as they perceive them to be unprofitable, due to low volumes. A proposal exists, for airlines to contribute a percentage of each ticket sold to a common fund which can be used to cross-subsidise air travel on unprofitable routes. This is similar to a fund in the telecom sector where operators contribute 5% of their gross revenues to a universal service obligation fund, which is used to provide telephone connectivity in rural areas. A similar policy in aviation would enable increase in connectivity on less busy routes.

Modification of the 5/20 rule: Currently, Indian airlines are required to have a minimum fleet of 20 aircraft and 5 years of operational experience to start international services. This serves as a deterrent for new entrants, who want to operate flights in the more profitable international segments. Instead, the policy can be modified to allow airlines to accumulate flying credits by deploying capacity on domestic routes, with additional credits for providing connectivity on routes deemed unprofitable. Also, the minimum operational experience requirement can be revised to one year. This will help improve domestic connectivity and attract more entrants in the aviation space.

Fuel taxation: High tax rates of 3-30% on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) have made ATF in India 60% costlier than that available in ASEAN countries. Along with state and central taxes on ATF, there exist service taxes on air tickets and high airport charges, which are throttling Indian airline carriers’ competitiveness and adding to their debt burden. A comprehensive look at the taxation policies is required, with reduction in extra taxes.

MRO taxation: Airlines in India spend 13-15% of their revenues on Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), making it the second largest cost component for airlines. Myopic policies regarding indirect taxes such as VAT and Service tax, along with laborious customs procedures regarding import of spare parts and consumables, has led to most airlines flying empty aircrafts to MRO facilities in foreign countries for servicing. Merely 5-10% of MRO work for domestic carriers is carried out in India. This represents a huge lost opportunity in terms of revenue and jobs. A task force needs to be set up to review the policies and modify the taxation regime to develop the domestic MRO industry.

Infrastructure development: There has been a thrust on development of infrastructure, particularly new airports, but there needs to be focus on developing low-frill airports under Public-Private-Partnership schemes. Also, a key impediment to growth of airline capacity in India is lack of availability of hangar space at key international airports, which needs to be addressed.

While the initiatives under the Make-In-India program serve as a good starting point, a comprehensive overhaul of aviation policy is required to achieve the growth targets and make Indian aviation competitive from a global standpoint.


Arundhati Hazra is a second year student at IIM Ahmedabad. She graduated from NITK Surathkal with a B.Tech in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and worked for three years, in ST-Ericsson and AMD, before coming to IIM Ahmedabad. She enjoys reading, writing and quizzing. She interned with McKinsey and Company during summers.

Twin upstarts from Fortazela – A sign of the times to come?

“International governance structures designed within a different power configuration show increasingly evident signs of losing legitimacy and effectiveness”

– Official statement signed by the BRICS leaders

On July 15, 2014, the BRIC countries announced the formation of twin financial institutions at the Fortaleza summit – the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). The announcement has been variously received with gushing optimism about the changing world order to cautious questioning of the feasibility of the bank. Considering the wide disparity in reactions, it is instructive to understand the structure, the motivation for setting up and the implications of this newly minted multilateral institution which is being hailed by many as the sign of the times to come.

The “What”

The New Development Bank adds on to the burgeoning list of development banks internationally – a 2009 study from the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific estimated that there were 550 development banks in the world.  The NDB (having a $50Bn paid-in capital) aims to fund infrastructure and sustainable development projects while the CRA is $100bn swap line that gives each country an access to emergency supply of paid-in capital. While the initial capital for NDB is being contributed equally by each of founder member countries ($10Bn each), the CRA will have a different set of contributions from each country.

Figure 1

Fig: Initial contributions, Source: Reuters, Government of Brazil

Though the NDB in a section of commentary has been hailed as a possible alternative to the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank and IMF), its initial capital base is lower than many of the existing multilateral banks.

Figure 2

Source: Market Realist

The bank has been structured to be open to new membership with a caveat that the founding members will hold a minimum of 55% of the voting power all the time. After much last wrangling, the BRICS decided that the bank be based out of Shanghai and while India will preside over the operations for the first five years, followed by Brazil and then Russia.

Why was it set up?

The setting up of NDB has been read as a first step towards the assertion of greater power by the developing countries and towards the breaking of dollar dominance. The NDB is the result of dissatisfaction with the current west-dominated international financial system which has not reflected the rise of the developing countries. For instance, the voting rights in the IMF for the BRICS countries are completely incongruent to the economic heft and the population of these countries.

Figure 3

Source: Financial Times

There also has been particular frustration in the style of operation of the global multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and IMF which attach sometimes unsuited and unreasonable requirements to the loans and assistance they offer. More often than not, privatization of resources is insisted which results in lucrative contracts for private companies, which are mostly based out of the west. Additionally, the perceived hypocrisy of these institutions while imposing harsh austerity measures on Asian countries after the Asian currency crisis and the acceptance of the lax stance of the European countries after the global financial crisis, served to heighten the antagonism among the developing countries towards these institutions. A more immediate trigger came in the form of rapid exodus of capital from emerging markets triggered in 2013 due to scaling back of the expansionary monetary policy in the US which highlighted the perils of over-dependence on the dollar and monetary policy of the US Fed.

Why does it matter?

The coming together of the BRICS countries to negotiate as significant multilateral institution points to the growing maturity of the bloc. This can be heralded as the v2.0 of the BRICS grouping – a shift from the being a convenient grouping of countries for investors towards tangible institution development. The impact of such a bank can be analysed with respect to 2 dimensions:

  • Global power shifts – The development of a NDB and CRA signals the viability of cooperation among the BRICS countries to come up alternatives if their demands for greater share of authority are not met. As an example, the draft IMF reforms for increasing the vote share of the BRICS countries agreed upon in 2010 is stuck in the US congressional process with no signs of any breakthrough. Furthermore, the CRA mechanism is designed to help the BRICS countries to lessen their dependence on the US Fed and the dollar.
  • Funding for developing countries – According to the World Bank, there exists a $1 Trillion funding gap for infrastructure in developing countries. In this context the NDB will provide an attractive alternative for other developing countries to acquire funds from other than western dominated multilateral institutions. The fact that a BRICS bank aims to make electricity, transport, telecommunications, and water/sewage a priority is important; the demand for infrastructure is expected to grow sharply as more countries transition out of low-income status. In terms of scale, after a couple of decades, if the membership expands along with mobilization of government financing and private funds—the BRICS Bank loans could dwarf World Bank loans. This type of success has been seen with the CAF, which now funds more infrastructure in Latin America than the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank combined. Over the long run, this might result in a reduced loan portfolio and consequently lower policy influence of current dominant institutions such as the World Bank. However, for the foreseeable future, given the huge demand-supply gap for financing, NDB will play a complementary role rather than supplementary one. This realization is reflected even in the official responses of the World Bank and IMF, which have welcomed the creation of NDB and CRA.

There are however several potential pitfalls for the success of NDB and CRA. The fairly heterogeneous composition of the BRICS setup – varying from quasi-dictatorial style of functioning of raucous democracy – will impose challenges in reconciling the negotiations to a common set of outcomes acceptable to all. This was already exhibited in the way the first set of decisions on headquarter location and the presidency were taken – at the last moment. Furthermore the range of scale of economies – China’s economy is almost 24 times the size of South Africa’s economy will put strain on the “democratic” nature of the institutions with China naturally wanting to impose itself.  China needs to resist overwhelming the institutions for its own advantage, in order to secure support from players such as India and Brazil.

The institutions born at Fortazela, have the potential to be harbingers of the needed change in the western dominated world of international finance. However, it will take patience and extraordinary maturity on the part of the BRICS nations for these institutions to fulfil their potential.

Should there be a “Right to Bank Account?”

Financial inclusion (FI) has become one of the top priorities of federal banks and governments across the globe. The issue demands an even greater importance here in India as the financial inclusion situation is grim. Despite being the Asia’s third largest economy, nearly 40% of the people don’t have a bank account. An RBI panel headed by Nachiket Mor, a member of the RBI’s central board, recently proposed a new class of banks, christened as “payment” banks, to be set up to enhance the coverage of financial services in India. This is a step in the right direction and this article argues as to why should the people demand for a “right to bank account”?

Financial inclusion, as defined by Zeti Akhtar Aziz, noted Malaysian economist, is “About providing an opportunity for the world’s 2.5 billion unbanked and financially underserved to participate in the formal financial system…” The global financial crisis of 2008 acted as an eye opener with regards to the importance of financial awareness.  Bringing the “financially untouched” population into the mainstream banking would not only improve their lives, but also bolster the economy.

blg1Source: Livemint

In the absence of financial inclusion, unregulated lending services sprout up. They usually ask for very high interest rates and repayment period is too short for any productive investment. They can get bullish in nature and leave customers to pay through the nose. Kate McKee, a behavioural economics expert, claims that a person caught in the claws of private moneylenders shows declining decision making and crisis management skills. This degrades performance in any profession.

Financial inclusion benefits the economy in multiple ways. It provides an easier way for the state to transfer benefits to people. It will eliminate leakages and curb corruption. Thus, the result would be a reduction in the government’s subsidy bill and putting the public money to more efficient use.

Another benefit is that having a bank account will encourage people to save money, and deposits could be used to extend capital to businesses. Growth in the formal banking sector is known to reduce reliance on “black” money for financing. Availability of affordable and adequate credit from the banking sector is known to boost the entrepreneurial spirits of people.

Achieving inclusion in the country of one billion seems a humongous task, and it indeed is, but as the old saying goes, “where there is a will, there is a way.” Several developing countries have taken innovative measure to address the issues, and the results are stellar. Kenya, for example, has leveraged the widespread presence of mobile phones to introduce a mobile-based financial services system called “M-PESA”. It is used by one-third of their population for cashless transfers, savings, financial transactions, etc. and could be replicated in India.


M-PESA Model: How it works

Even private lenders can be made a part of the financial inclusion system under strict regulatory control. Brazil has in place a network of 95000 banking agents who have helped pull around 13 million people into mainstream banking. Bangladesh has adapted its regulatory framework to suit the growth of women-led micro financing institutions.

The biggest obstacle to relaxing the norms for banking growth is the fear of banking services being exploited for money laundering or even worse, funding terrorist activities. Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental body, was established in 1989 to counter these issues. Mexico has tried to address the issue by having “tiered” regulatory framework. Low-value accounts relax on the background checks but are subjected to more stringent transaction restrictions.

In 2008, more than 80 developing countries came together to form the “Alliance for financial inclusion,” an international knowledge sharing network to discuss and design policies on financial inclusion. Seeing the momentum in world economies towards financial inclusion, RBI acknowledged that it is the need of the hour. Based on the proposals of panels and think tanks, it has taken several steps for the expansion of financial institutions in rural India:

  • No frills accounts: These are the most basic accounts which offer only the basic services. These accounts have zero balance requirements and have helped attract more than 12 million Indians into formal banking.
  • Relaxation of Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements: No frill accounts can be opened up by showing up any one of a variety of photo IDs. For low-risk individuals, full KYC data updating exercise has to be carried out only after every ten years as compared to the norm of five years.
  • Banks at the doorstep: The introduction of information and communication technology, e-commerce, financial inclusion fund and online updates on markets, etc. have brought banks to the doorsteps.

The statistics presented below shows that these measures have achieved partial success in increasing the penetration of financial institutions in rural areas. “Crisil Inclusix Index” is used as a measure of FI. It collates three crucial parameters of bank penetration: branch penetration, deposit penetration and credit penetration. The Index has increased from 40 to 35 in the last five years, but it is mostly high for the states with high literacy. This implies that the poor, uneducated people who truly need an account are still excluded.

blg3Source: Livemint

 Under the recent proposal of RBI, existing banks are going to be allowed to open subsidiaries serving as payment banks. The Panel further proposes to have a universal electronic bank account (UEBA) for every person on the lines of the Unique Identification card scheme of central government.  Experts welcome the Mor’s proposals and believe that the concept of “payment banks” could prove to be a game changer. As Shinjini Kumar, head of banking at PWC India commented in financial express “I definitely think the proposed payment banks are better suited to achieve the objective of increasing penetration compared to the universal banks,”

Financial inclusion of the bottom half of the financial pyramid is an arduous, but crucial task that requires government will, support from leadership across political parties and careful policy crafting by RBI. We have this opportunity of leveraging the dormant potential of the financially secluded section of our economy. Who knows, it may herald a new era of growth and prosperity for all. So yes, it is time for government to give some serious thought to “Right to bank Account.”


Vaibhav Kumar Singh is a PGP-2 student at IIM Ahmedabad and a member of Consult Club. He did his internship with The Boston Consulting Group. Prior to joining IIMA, he worked as a Software Development Engineer at Microsoft and as a research scholar at INRIA, France. He is a graduate in Computer Science & Engg. from IIT Jodhpur.

Mobile Number Portability: The Hype and the Impact

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) equips customers to switch over to an alternative network service provider without having to change their numbers. MNP was tipped to be the game changer and turn around the competitive landscape of the Indian Telecom Sector. It was launched with much enthusiasm in January, 2011 by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), after a successful model test in Haryana . However the actual customer switch-over rate has remained far below 1% per month compared to  a monthly average of 3-5% in more developed nations notching up only around 109 million MNP applications in the past 3 years. This is a little over 10% of total customer accounts switched in 36 months and is far below the expected pre-launch predictions.

Despite 55% customers expressing satisfaction with their current network provider and 48% over the network quality, there were strong supporting reasons for introducing MNP in the first place.  A Nielsen survey done at the stroke of the launch of MNP in India had revealed high customer interest (~1 out of every 5 customers) in using this facility (refer Chart 1). There were evident customer advantages meant to be seen with this new introduction, namely :

  • Major reduction in switching barrier, especially for customers owning a particularly ‘good’ number which they did not want to change
  • Inducing fair competition among the Network Service Providers (NSPs)
  • Better tariff and promotional plans
  • Improved quality of service

These were supposed to be the new rules of the game for Service providers if they had to retain their customers and poach new ones from other competitors.


 Chart 1: Source – Nielsen Survey, 2010

Yet the actual impact was far less than originally predicted by TRAI. The reasons for the unexpected low impact are numerous. Researchers claim that higher %age of MNP is an indication of the level of maturity of the market and there is evidence to infer that Indian customers are not very ‘number’ conscious. Pre-paid account users, which form ~97% of all Indian wireless accounts, still exhibit a trend of buying fresh SIM cards (getting a new number) instead of necessarily using MNP. Even though post-paid account users show a better trend in this regard, the number of post-paid accounts is only 3% of the total. Also, data shows that for most of the experienced service providers, the parameters like tariff charges, network quality, value added services, etc. are more or less similar to each other, hence, there is no major value proposition for the customer to make use of MNP extensively. At times, even the network providers are not keen on poaching accounts which are historically low revenue generating.

Telecom Sector Impact Analysis:

Despite the Indian Telecom sector being a primarily pre-paid market, i.e., ~97% share in terms of user accounts, the remaining 3% of Post-paid accounts are extremely important for NSPs as they drive the overall profitability. The advent of MNP has meant that new entrants can capture adequate number of customers by poaching from the incumbent market leaders through offering higher value for price. Hence, customer service, quality of the network, value added services and customized tariff plans are the key to long-term leadership.

The Average revenue per user (ARPU) is much higher for Post-paid customers, hence, the profitability too (refer tables 1 & 2).


Table 1: TRAI official report, 2013

Table 3

Table 2: TRAI official report, 2013

The Telecom sector in terms of its user account base is declining post the advent of MNP (chart 2), yet the overall revenues and correspondingly ARPU are on the rise (chart 3). This has been a positive for the NSPs as now the cost of issuing more accounts and blocking more numbers has gone down, adding to their profits.

The Telecom sector in terms of its user account base is declining post the advent of MNP (chart 2), yet the overall revenues and correspondingly ARPU are on the rise (chart 3). This has been a positive for the NSPs as now the cost of issuing more accounts and blocking more numbers has gone down, adding to their profits.

Chart 1

Chart 2: TRAI official report, 2013

Chart 2

Chart 3: TRAI official report, 2013


 IDEA: a clear winner

The impact of MNP has been best tapped by Idea Cellular and Vodafone, amongst all private and public sector players. Idea Cellular had a net 3.32 million influx of customers while Vodafone registered 2.89 million, in over a year of the introduction of MNP. Customer feedback suggested that it was the network quality and clarity of voice which led them to choose Idea over other NSPs. During the past fiscal (2012-13), Idea has registered the highest growth in revenues, on a percentage year-on-year basis (Exhibit 1). The contribution of MNP can be estimated as (assuming constant trends over last 2 years) = 3.32 * 10^6 * 105 (ARPU) *12 = 418 Crores, in terms of Gross Revenues. This amounts to nearly 229.9 crores (55%), in terms of Adjusted revenues, which is huge.

Attributing to the same benefits, consumer surveys have shown that customers have rewarded NSPs for good customer service and high network quality with competitive tariff plans. The reasons for not switching over to a competitor were dominated by customer satisfaction and brand loyalty (Table 3).

Table 3

Table 3: Paper by Rajesh Yadav and Nishant Dabhade

Similarly, as expected the main reasons for customers who made use of MNP were led by better features offered by competitors and lack of up-gradation schemes for the current service provider. (Table 4)

Table 7

Table 4: Paper by Rajesh Yadav and Nishant Dabhade

Looking ahead:

The next step in this direction from the Government is to provide National level Mobile Number Portability. This will enable customers to retain their mobile numbers as they move from one circle to another when they change states. Thus, not having to be on roaming and yet be able to retain the old numbers could be highly advantageous for such clients. This is targeted for an April, 2014 launch. But the impact seems to be primarily restricted to those people who usually get frequently relocated, which constitutes less than 1% of User accounts per month. Thus, expecting a major overhaul by this next leg of development in the Telecom space is highly unlikely. Hence, despite minor positives for both- customers and NSPs, Indian telecom sector still waits for its real game changer.

Table 4 (Source: TRAI report, 2013)


Udit Kejriwal is a PGP-2 student at IIM Ahmedabad. An Aditya Birla Scholar and a runner-up at the ‘Dewang Mehta Best Student in Management’ competition nationally, Udit interned with McKinsey and Company for his summers. A former General Secretary Technology at IIT Kharagpur, Udit worked for 2 years as Quality Assurance Manager with Procter & Gamble on completion of his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. He is a passionate dancer, a long distance runner and a die-hard sports enthusiast.

Will m-Commerce lead the way for e-Commerce in India?

As of now, India has 10 % population penetration in internet usage. This is in stark contrast to the global average of 35%, and much below the average of the developed world at 78%. Though the population base is big enough for a thriving e-commerce industry, India’s e-commerce potential at the moment is limited by a number of factors:

  • Infrastructure system – India still is a cash driven economy with very low availability of the credit systems. This is a bottleneck for many of the consumers willing to purchase goods online, and is the primary reason for India’s unique jugaad of payment via Cash on Delivery. However, many large players are wary of such a system that is manpower intensive, and requires time to collect the cash from the consumer’s doorstep.
  • Slow internet speed – India still has less than 5% broadband penetration among its internet users, compared to 30% globally. The slow net speed results in several payment gateways rejecting transactions because of the time lag in connecting to the server and getting confirmation. This results in poor user experience and discourages further attempts at shopping online.
  • Poor logistics infrastructure – For most of the e-commerce companies selling merchandise, the delivery of the good to the end mile is still critical. This requires excellent logistics and transportation infrastructure which has been a glaring concern in India.

To address such concerns, the government recently launched the ambitious National Broadband Plan with an outlay of USD 12 billion, which aims to bring 160 million households under broadband connection by 2016. This would take broadband penetration to that of the developed countries, opening up significant opportunities in sectors like education, business, entertainment and e-governance. However, it is feared that if we miss out on the intervening years, the Internet revolution could just bypass India.

This opens up an excellent platform for the private sector to contribute by pitching in and leveraging the strong telecom infrastructure already in place. With more than 67 million smartphones in the country and a ubiquitous 3G connectivity, high-speed mobile internet penetration far outpaces the broadband penetration. Though high speed fiber network is still important for organizations and institutions, mobile internet speed is sufficient for individual consumers – the main segment of customers in e-commerce.

Just as mobile telephony overtook the Indian wired telephone network thus revolutionizing voice-communication and sms, jugaad innovations in m-commerce are paving the way for a similar transformation in e-commerce. Mobile payments such as Airtel money and mobile to mobile transfer can circumvent the need for a credit card payment which has been so far unavailable to the mass public. Mobile e-commerce or m-commerce can really help capture the Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Already 45 % of the online users in India access so using only their mobile and contribute close to 3% of the e-commerce revenues. M-commerce is well established and trusted for small payments such as downloading ringtone and music. This suggests some trust is already established in the virtual mobile payment system.

Critics of m-commerce point to the small screen size of the handsets and suggest it would fail to gain momentum. However this argument fails to stand ground. Myntra is a leading online fashion portal and earlier had only 4% of its revenue coming in from mobile. However, they realized the advantage m-commerce offered in capturing the demand of Tier 2 cities and small town India, and after they redesigned their website to suit mobile screens they witnessed explosive growth in revenues generated from mobile purchases – they were able to garner 20% of their revenue from m-commerce last year. Additionally, 70 % of Indian e-commerce is for travel bookings and classifieds, which can be easily transferred to a small screen. The travel bus ticketing giant RedBus, attributes their success to presence in the mobile segment via apps that consumers quoted were its differentiating factors offering ease and convenience.

The m-commerce also offers other benefits such as geo-contextual shopping experience which is unmatched by any other media. Zomato and Justdial have shown leaps and bounds in their growth since they launched apps that use a consumer’s GPS position for better targeting of services.

To sum up, m-commerce is ready to take India’s e-commerce success to new heights. However it needs government and public support. The government should offer significant incentives such as promotion of FDI in e-commerce and telecom. High pricing of the 3G spectrum, and the failure to share 3G spectrum across competitors will only hamper India’s e-commerce growth story, and is bad for the consumer. Nonetheless, with year-on-year growth of 57%, m-commerce stares ahead for an exciting run.

Satvik Dudeja is a PGP1 student at IIM Ahmedabad, and a member of the Consult Club. 

Indian Aviation Industry: In-Flight Turbulence

2012 may be remembered as the darkest year for the civil aviation industry in India. The difficulties being faced by Kingfisher Airlines and Air India and their consequences well represent a delicate moment for the entire sector. Analysts had started to look at 2013 as the year of the recovery.  However, one thing was clear last year: business models of the major carriers were not sustainable, structural changes were needed in the industry.


In the first week of June, the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) released the official passenger statistics for the first 5 months on the year. The overall image was of a weak recovery in the number of passengers.

Aviation 1

Passengers carried by domestic airlines during the period Jan-May 2013 were 259.98 lakhs as against 258.08 lakhs during the corresponding period of previous year thereby registering a growth of + 0.74%.

Some sector experts described these results as the beginning of a new sustainable growth trend for the industry.

The factors taken into account to support such optimism related to the fact that the Indian market is severely under-served, with less than 3% of its population utilizing the air route. Market potential is huge, and with the increase of the income per capita, demand is expected to grow at a double-digit pace in the next 10 years. According to the IATA (International Air Transport Association), by 2020, traffic at Indian airports is expected to reach 450 million, making it the third-largest aviation market in the world. However, the present reality is very distant from these expectations.


Aviation 2

According to the DGCA, India’s air passenger traffic fell by 1.84% in June from a year ago, going from 5.10 million passengers in 2012 to 5.01 million in 2013. In order to face the declining demand, all the major airlines have decided to lower or at least not increase the airfares. In particular, full-service airlines like Jet Airways and Air India have consistently dropped their fares to match those of low-cost carriers. On the other hand, IndiGo and SpiceJet are trying to keep the fares at the same level as 2012. Even though ticket fares are on average almost 20% lower this year than in 2012, no positive effect in the demand is registered.

However, demand stagnation seems to be only one of the several structural problems affecting the industry. There are a number of other critical challenges facing airline companies:

– Taxes are everywhere in India’s aviation sector, a clear indication that the government views the sector as a revenue source rather than a revenue generator. In contravention of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) policy, India’s Ministry of Finance has put a service tax on tickets as well as landing and navigation charges.

– Fuel accounts for the 45% of Indian carriers’ operating costs, compared to the global average of 33%. With the presence of 8.2% excise duty, taxes are again one of the sources of disadvantage. The recent devaluation of the Rupee, and the consequent higher cost of the dollar (oil currency), is further aggravating the situation.

– Indian airlines are starved of skilled workforce. It is estimated that Indian aviation will need about 350,000 new employees to facilitate growth in the next decade. Shortfalls in skilled labor see staff salaries rise above inflation, adding further cost pressure. Given this situation, robust training programs will be the key to a sustainable future.


Looking at the structural problems listed above, it seems clear that a change plan is needed. The aviation industry supports close to 0.5 % of Indian GDP, and in an emerging economy like India the need for connectivity is critical to facilitate the growth of trade and tourism. The development process of the country is at stake.

For this reason a coordinated approach, involving the government, airline companies and infrastructure developers, is urgently required. Some points that need to be developed in order to address the central challenges of infrastructure, costs, and taxes are:

– Ensure collaboration between the Ministry of Civil Aviation, other related ministries, regulators and the industry and promote other sectors that can both support and benefit the aviation sector

– Reduce fuel sales taxes. The long-term benefits on terms of higher economic activity and employment generation would more than compensate for the notional loss of tax revenue in the short run

– Establish a world-class National Aviation University and promote private sector investments in training academies to produce highly-skilled human resources

– Implement recent policy decisions such as the 49% Foreign Direct Investment limit, and establish safeguards to prevent excessive and predatory ticket prices.

Aviation 3

This last point seems to have central role in the future dynamics of the industry. Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, can be considered the pioneer of this future trend, buying a 24% stake in Jet Airways. This acquisition represents the first foreign investment in India’s airline sector since ownership restrictions were eased on March 2012. The deal, that is expected to boost the fortune of Jet Airways, has faced political opposition in India, driven by the fear that it may hurt national carrier Air India.

Many sector experts see these initiatives as the factor that can make the difference for the future of the Indian aviation industry. Top international players such as Etihad can transfer specific knowledge and best practices, improving domestic partner’s efficiency and marketing capabilities.

However, as highlighted before, the progressive internationalization of the India’s domestic airline industry needs to be coupled with structural changes, involving the government and other firms operating in related sectors.

Only a common effort by all the parties involved, would allow India’s carriers to get out of this turbulence and start to fly high.

Laviero Satriano is a Dual Degree student at Bocconi University and IIM Ahmedabad and a member of the consult club. Before coming to IIMA, he had an internship at The American Chamber of Commerce of Texas in the USA, and he was responsible for a volunteering project in Uganda. He holds a Bachelors of Management and Business Administration at Bocconi University.