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Business services 2011-02-14

Money minting out of phone renting

By Namita Bhagat Feature Writer

‘Rent a Phone’ scheme is a newly introduced concept in telecom sector in India. In an interview Ravi K. Bhalla, C.E.O. and Director, Operations, Vincegrass Rent A Phone Private Limited, shares the expansion plans of the company.

Namita Bhagat (NB): ‘Rent A Phone’ is a very unique concept. How did the idea of Rent A Phone originate and what is its novelty? Share the growth and success of the brand so far?

Ravi Bhalla (RB): Phone renting services are not new, as hundreds of companies are providing these services from past two decades. But due to conditions like Network Operator Lock, Country Network Band Access, small product range, expensive call and sms charges, excess of security deposit minimum USD300$ etc, it took more time to release these services in India. At Vincegrass, we required ideas which could help the entire business model of phone renting with superior compatibility with the Indian market tradition. So we came across some innovative ideas such as; No Security Deposit and subscription through RAP Card, Wide range of products, No operator lock so that customer could use any operator service in the phones and there is no country band limitation in maximum range so that product can be used across the world.

(NB): What motivated the company to take the franchise route for expansion?

(RB): Previously, phone rental services were available for foreign travelers, students gone abroad or upcountry tour officials. At Vincegrass we thought of making services more flexible and available to everyone. We cater to common man, therefore the company produced an action plan via franchise route. At present we plan to do pilot launches in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

(NB): Currently, how many franchisees do you have in India and in which cities? Do you have company owned units also?

(RB): We have established 284 franchisees in Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the count is increasing day by day. According to the design of ‘execution of venture’, we cannot have any company owned outlet in the pilot run.

NB: What are the standards for the choice of potential franchisees? What is the cost of investment to set up a franchise?

RB: We are offering different type of franchisee such as Customer Service Centers (The Dealers), Authorized Service Points (The Processing Offices), Authorized Repair Centers, House for Urban Branches (The Stockiest & Domestic supplier) and State Business Associates. Different work duties are allocated to different franchisees. There is assured variant for investments from Rs 45,000 to Rs28,00,000.

NB: What sort of training and support mechanism you have for prospective franchisees? What is the role and liability of the franchisees?

RB: We have a broad and trendy training support for each single small task. We train our franchisee through Live physical trainings, One on One sessions, Online training, backend and internal procedures training, and self training modules which can be downloaded to computer systems and any time useful in assistance. We also have online dedicated support and information exchange center to address each single query by issuing dedicated ticketing system.

Each franchisee has a different role and responsibility in the venture but all of them are free from liabilities especially raised from the customer or consumer’s end. For ex:

  • Customer Service Center (CSC) would deal with all the prospects, coming to his shop for enquiry about Rent-A-Phone. The customer gets information of all products and services. He can get handouts and Customer Application Forms (CAF) here and can make payments for subscription, rentals and/or any dues.
  • Authorized Service Point (ASP) is a place to submit application to subscribe services, issue rental products, conducting first security check and OSV (Original Seen and Verify). Usually, 8 to 15 CSCs are allocated to one exclusive ASP.

NB: What are your future expansion plans across India?

RB: We anticipate launch of attractive services which create new business for all investors in India. Our priority services are technology related and we will release our OneStop® telecom after sales chain shortly that will give a new face to the next generation consumer services.

NB: What challenges does a franchisee encounter while setting up his franchised outlet?

RB: The services are new to Indian market therefore in the beginning; the curiosity of customers can give some extra heat to the franchisee counter. Apart from this mock queries may disrupt the existing business in the starting days at the counter. Factually, we do not allot franchisee to fresher or newly established counters. The experience of minimum one year for CSC and two years for ASP is required to be our franchisee.

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