India’s biggest mobile phone companies Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm are planning to woo the 130 million people expected to arrive for the Kumbh Mela, which starts January 15, with special services and plans over the two months that the event will run. On offer are radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to locate those who might get lost, apps that offer realtime travel information, emergency helplines and area routes. Apart from live streaming of all Kumbh proceedings, content has also been created to draw devotees to their platforms. These include religious discourses, virtual tours of pilgrim sites and devotional songs. The Kumbh Mela will be held between January 15 and March 4.
“This feeds into our strategy of expanding our regional content play to drive the adoption of Airtel TV amongst smartphone users, particularly in tier 2, 3 towns and villages,” said Sameer Batra, CEO, content and apps at Bharti Airtel. “It will also provide us massive insights into user preferences and help us sharpen our curation for the regional segment." Given that competition has driven down tariffs, telecom service providers have realised that events — related to sport, entertainment, health, education and faith — are opportunities to win subscribers. Devotional subjects are increasingly popular on content offerings and the Kumbh offers the best opportunity to establish customer connect, experts said. Telcos expect to more than double data consumption from the year earlier, thanks to events such as the Kumbh, cricket tournaments and elections in 2019.
Bharti Airtel, the country’s second-largest operator, has created a special Kumbh channel on its Airtel TV app to digitally connect devotees with the event. Users will be able to stream all major rituals from any location, said the operator, which has 342 million subscribers. It has tied up with VR Devotee, a Bengaluru-based startup that streams ceremonies on its virtual reality platform. There will be “special kiosks at the venue to offer virtual reality-based immersive experience to visitors, who will be able to enjoy real life display of proceedings from the kiosks”, said the operator. Vodafone IdeaNSE -0.54 %, the largest telco with 428 million subscribers, will deploy RFID technology for the millions attending the festival.
Reliance Jio Infocomm, which has 262.75 million customers, has introduced several services for pilgrims via its 4G feature phone, including information on the event, the status of trains and buses, emergency helplines and routes besides devotional content on its Jio TV and radio apps, news alerts and family locators. “JioPhone is at the centre of innovation and the Kumbh JioPhone initiative continues to demonstrate our focus on bringing disproportionate and true value for the JioPhone consumers," said a spokesperson.