The Cellular Network Explosion

It is amazing, it is mind boggling and it is for all my money real. The cellular explosion has really hit Pakistan!

What has caused the explosion is what I wish to address? It is only academic to view the new user base in terms of geographical location i.e. Provincial, Urban/Rural etc. Perhaps it could be more useful in reviewing users from the perspective of Primary & Secondary user type.

A simple definition of a primary user is someone, who can afford a regular cell phone expense and is dependent on it to bring work efficiency.  Secondary user needs can be classified as a luxury, where both these factors are not necessarily in play.

However, the definition of Primary and Secondary users keeps evolving over a period of time. We have already seen this change in Pakistan, where in the initial stages, cell phone users were only the elite and high end consumers.

Over the passage of time, trends trickled down to various multiple user types. Simply put, new trends and living standards automatically bring new habits and usages. For instance, those customers who have started to use online air travel bookings have started to appreciate how uncomplicated it is.

Similarly, increasing supply also automatically generates momentum for new users. Less than a few years  back when only two GSM players existed, prepaid connections were being rationed. We are also aware of Lathi charge on queues of people at Ufone distributors, getting free connections.

There are many more reasons bringing about the change such as tariff reductions, convenience, low teledensity of land lines, status consciousness, greater affordability etc.

In my opinion, the real growth in an industry is hugely dependent on the conversion of non-users to users. In our country, with a population of over 193 million people the present phone subscriber is 125 million (64%).

Mathematically speaking there is still a base of 36% population that does not have a cell phone.


I am sure realistically estimated the genuine target of cell phone users are much less than the mathematical number, owing to affordability, very young Pakistani population, Urban/Rural population divides, Male/Female user base differences etc. Even if we apply all these factors to reduce the potential of target customers, I am sure realistically speaking the number would be greater than the existing user base.

The million dollar question here is that in a state of geometric progression, currently being witnessed in the telecom sector in Pakistan, what are the factors that define the leading brands that can retain their top positions?

In other words, how much of a difference does marketing create in establishing leadership for a brand, once the industry reaches a saturation point?

The fact of the matter is that, the real test of a brand is seen when there are very few new customers and survival is dependent on how a brand manages to eat up the share of its competitors.

However, we must bear in mind that this, normally, does not happen overnight and there is a definitive process behind successful brands.  This brings us to the most important part of the discussion, which is the importance of Marketing, with specific emphasis to Advertising, in terms of how this can create an impetus for the growth of the industry and brands?

Let’s leave the discussion of Leading Telcos and their Market Share for our research based review  availabe in a few days. Till then, ponder debate and relate.