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It is time to draw stumps for 2012, so let’s take a pause from telecom talk and get down to a comparison meriting far more serious analysis: How does our national game measure up to the country’s most talked about industry? Here’s a First XI of issues to settle the score.

1. Speed: With Zaheer Khan in decline and 3G and 4G both set to grow, telecom has the edge on cricket when it comes to service delivery at quick pace.

Verdict: Telecom wins on speed, by a yard.

2.  Customer experience: Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen and Virat Kohli have created “moments of truth” through Twenty20 that any telecom chief marketing officer would die for.  Telco retail outlets and call centres do not offer the customer a level of excitement or engagement close to the weeks of customer frenzy the IPL boys whip up every spring.

Verdict: Over and out, Cricket wins. 

3.  Rural: Just like in telecom, the recent India vs England Test series reveals that the pace is in the Metros and it is positively pedestrian in the boondocks. Metropolitan Mumbai was the only wicket that was remotely speedy and by contrast the 22 yards at small-town Nagpur were about as quick as writing SMS without predictive text.

Verdict: When it comes to rural, cricket and telecom are both way behind service in the metros. Match drawn.

4.  Coverage: In an attempt to stop leaking boundaries, MS Dhoni could benefit from lessons in coverage planning from an Indian telecom network planner. This is a rare breed of genius, expert at blanketing coverage gaps with barely any resources. Telecom has got 95% of us covered in India, but our fielders have some way to go to match that.

Verdict: Telecom wins on field coverage, and over the air for that matter.

5. Top order vs Top-tier:  Equipped with the latest handsets and tablets, India’s top tier mobile user racks up a good 300 minutes and more megabytes of usage every month.  This is well ahead of how long Gambhir and Sehwag have managed to occupy the crease in recent times.

Verdict: Telecom wins. Time for India’s openers to try new tablets.

6.  Middle order vs mid-tier:Unlike the mid-tier telecom user who has multiple SIM cards to switch operators day to day, churn levels are pretty low in India’s cricketing middle order. Laxman, Ganguly, Dravid and Tendulkar have loyally graced the team for the best part of two decades.

Verdict: Maybe telcos can “cap” their favourite customers to stop them from switching.
For retention ability, Cricket wins.  

7. Runs per over vs ARPU: With relentless intensity, Test and T20 formats are driving higher and higher runs per over. Thanks to Gilchrist and Sehwag, the days of 2.5 RPO in a Test match are all but history, and the figures now approach 4.0. Meanwhile, average revenue per user has been charting a continuous decline. If telcos could index-link ARPU to RPO, worries about revenue growth would become a thing of the past.

Verdict: Numbers don’t lie: Cricket wins.

8. Captain vs CEO:You can usually rely on Captain Cool to do the job for India, but he’s no match for India’s telecom CEO, who runs a complex business coupled with the daily overhang of a regulatory surprise or two that could cost billions of dollars.

Verdict: The keeper’s gloves are off. Telecom wins.

9. Run outs: In telecom, if you run out of credit, there’s never a kiosk far away where you can top up and carry on, whereas in cricket you are on your way back to the pavilion!

Verdict: The umpire’s finger is raised, and cricket is out!  Telecom wins.

10. Analytics: Could a telco’s customer segmentation model work out that Alastair Cook has averaged 65.62 with the bat since the beginning of the last Ashes series?  Sure it could, and some more too. Cricket boasts a deep and rather troubling segment of analytical hacks who will quote statistics to you from the Timeless Test of Durban in 1929, but a telco’s analytics engine should beat Wisden’s scorebook, any day.

Verdict: Following extensive analysis, telecom wins!

11. Bouncers vs bill shock: They both hurt, but which is worse: Chin music from Umesh Yadav & Co (or more like shin music, if we’re talking Nagpur wickets) or bill shock after an overseas holiday when you forgot to switch off data on your iPhone? Bouncers can you give you a bruising that will last a few days, but the pain of a Rs 50,000 bill scars some for life!

Verdict: Bruises are temporary, but bill shock can be permanent. Telecom, you lose!

12.   BCCI vs TRAI: Now that’s a 12th Man showdown whose result nobody could predict!

Verdict: No third umpire and no DRS.  Match abandoned

Result: Cricket 4, Telecom 6, No result 2. Telecom wins!

What’s in your Issues XI?

Happy New Year!