State-owned mobile operator Teletalk’s low number of subscribers is making their efforts to re-brand themselves a struggle.
On March 8, 2016 it launched its new logo with promises to restructure how the company operates and to make it into a profitable organisation.
However, over the past year, there has been no substantial change in its operational structure or in its subscriber base.
According to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) sources, Teletalk had 4.25 million subscribers last year.
Three months after their re-branding began, the mobile operator saw a slight increase subscriber numbers – 4.36 million in April, 4.46 million in May and 4.49 million in June.
However, by July these numbers began to decrease again. By August, their subscriber base had drastically fallen to 2.92 million.
Looking into this drop in subscribers, the Dhaka Tribune found that even the company’s officials could not agree on an exact cause.
Seeking anonymity, a Teletalk official, told the Dhaka Tribune that the company’s management had only agreed to the re-branding strategy because Posts and Telecommunication State Minister Tarana Halim had demanded it.
He claimed that the company had launched the re-branding without a proper marketing plan or even proper investment.
“All we did was change our logo and the slogan. Actually, we changed our look but have made zero qualitative changes in terms of operations and structure.
“The only other decision made was to increase the number of customer care centres,” said the official.
Teletalk acting managing director Kazi Md Golam Quddus, however, had a different take on things.
“Re-branding Teletalk was not as unsuccessful as some may believe. The number of subscribers did see an increase over a period,” he said.
“The numbers started to fall because of the re-registration process. But the numbers are now slowly increasing again.”
According to BTRC sources, the number of subscribers had increased to 3.79 million this January, but dropped again to 3.73 million.
Industry insiders believe the drop in subscriber numbers are due to the recent mobile internet connectivity issues Teletalk has been experiencing.
A majority of Teletalk’s subscribers are internet users since the operator has affordable prices and stable connectivity. A recent drop in service quality and the company’s lack in network coverage across the country, however, is now forcing existing subscribers to rethink.
Moreover, since the other mobile phone operators in the country have lowered their charges for mobile internet, the state-owned company is finding it hard to attract new subscribers, they said.
Requesting anonymity, another Teletalk official said the government believed that re-branding would come as a positive change for the company and attract new subscribers but the mobile operator’s poor network coverage and reluctance to upgrade was not being well received by subscribers.
When the discussion regarding re-branding was taking place, the then Teletalk managing director, Gias Uddin Ahmed, had suggested that the operator design different, affordable packages.
However, the company has not made any major changes in packages.
Sources also said that though Tarana Halim had promised that several new Teletalk customer care centres would be inaugurated, the initiative had made no progress due to a lack of funding.
Just before the launching of the re-branding programme, Tarana had visited Malaysia and Singapore to gather experience and observe their state-owned telecommunication businesses.
Irrespective of the re-branding attempts and Tarana’s statement that the government’s initiatives would soon make Teletalk a leading market player in the country’s mobile industry, the state-owned mobile operator has yet to make any substantial progress.