Thursday, March 10, 2011

Smart to saturate countryside with P500 low-end phones

Employing for the first time a direct-selling approach, telecom giant Smart Communications has unveiled a plan to invade the rural areas with a P500-phone package under its Talk ‘N Text brand.

In a press launch Thursday, Smart officials said the launch of the low-priced prepaid handset bundle, dubbed Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone, signals a fresh drive to gain more ground in the lower D and E market.

The telecom operator said it is deploying a direct-to-consumer marketing strategy employed by consumer firms in selling their products. This means that the phone bundle won’t be available in malls or big retail stores – at least not yet – and will be sold only through distributors and roving sales teams.

The Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone kit includes a new handset with a built-in Talk ‘N Text SIM, pre-loaded with free SMS. Specially-developed SMS bucket offers will also be available for as low as P5.

Smart officials discuss the dubbed Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone in a press briefing on Thursday.
With the Panalo Phone’s price, the telco leader is banking on the bundled product to help put a cellphone in the hands of about 11 million or so Filipinos that still don’t have or can’t afford a cellphone.

“Offering quality services and making them affordable and accessible to what they now call ‘the base of the pyramid’ is built into Smart’s DNA. This is where and how we grew,” said Orlando B. Vea, chief wireless advisor and co-founder of Smart.

“Offering the Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone is a natural progression of that strategy,” Vea added.

The Talk ‘N Text SIM in the Panalo Phone kit comes pre-loaded with ‘Araw-Araw Text 10’, which provides 40 SMS to any Smart or Talk ‘N Text number, and 25 SMS to all networks, valid for 2 days. It also comes pre-registered to an SMS-based value-added service that helps collect job openings in various industries.

“This innovative product allows us to offer real value to this fresh market of unserved, potential mobile subscribers,” said Danilo Mojica, head of Smart’s wireless consumer division.

“This is key to our overall strategy of slicing and dicing the market and making sure we have a unique and relevant product to offer to this particular segment,” added Mojica.

To make mobile services more affordable to subscribers with very limited spending money, micro-priced bucket packages – some as low as P5 – will also be made available exclusively to users of the Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone kit, aside from ‘Araw-araw Text 10’.

‘Araw-araw Text 20’ provides 100 SMS valid for five days for only P20, while ‘Araw-araw Text 40’ provides 300 SMS valid for 15 days for only P40.

Another offer that’s designed exclusively for the Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone is the micro-load denomination called ‘Panalo 5’, which provides P5 worth of airtime. Another variant is ‘Promo 5’, which provides 20 SMS for only P5, valid for one day.

The Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone kit will initially include handsets manufactured by Cherry Mobile and ZTE, which are designed to work exclusively with the Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone SIM.

The kits will be available through Smart and Talk ‘N Text sales agents and provincial distributors, while load for the Panalo Phone will be available from any of Smart’s network of over a million e-load retailers nationwide.

To create more value to users, the Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone has also been designed to work with Smart Money, the world’s first cash card linked to a mobile phone, to provide mobile micro-payment and money transfer services to the unbanked.

For an additional P50 cash-out, Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone subscribers may immediately receive their Smart Money Card plus additional P10 load.

“To the unbanked, a Talk ‘N Text Panalo Phone linked to a Smart Money account will provide the benefits of sending and receiving remittances in seconds and at a low cost, and the ability to withdraw from over 9,000 ATMS in the country,” said Mojica.

PLDT, the parent company of Smart, recently reported a net addition of 1.9 million to the Talk ‘N Text base, to end 2010 with over 19 million subscribers — helping Smart keep its lead in the industry in terms of both revenues and subscribers.

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