Robi’s renewed growth push, started offering free SIM

Dec 9, 2016
Image courtesy: Robi Website

Robi Axiata Limited, the second largest telecom operator in the country, after the merger with Airtel, has started a renewed user growth push recently. As part of the drive, the company has started to offer free SIM cards across the country. According to several sources, the company is offering free SIM cards in different parts of the country. In some places, it has opened up booths and in others, it is working in collaboration with the local distributors. The company has been investing heavily in 2.5G/3.5G network expansion. It has invested BDT 2.9 billion in network expansion only in the 3rd quarter of 2016, according to the company.

Robi is going through a transition. The company has just completed its merger with Airtel. On the user end, it has lost a significant number of users to biometric registration drive. The company’s subscribers decreased to 23.8 million impacted by deactivation of non-compliant biometric registration SIM. The company has now 20.5% of industry subscriber market share.

All the telecom operators lost their users during biometric registration except Grameenphone. This renewed user growth push is part of its attempt to make up for the lost users during biometric registration.

The market is quite competitive in telecom operator space. The growth path is not clear for either of the player despite the fact that mobile penetration is growing rapidly. Part of the reason if of course, it is a difficult decision to switch an operator simply for convenience reasons.

As part of the growth push, all three leading operators are trying a host of different strategies including aggressive data push, launching myriad digital services, and more.

The reasoning behind offering free SIM and other talk time benefits is simple: if you can lure people to use your service once and then keep them for awhile it will become difficult for them to switch. While this reasoning makes sense for a certain type of users, it is not going to work for most users. In reality, a free SIM and small talk time benefits is not anything substantial, for real user growth something more substantial are required.

In the current market, both voice and data packages are expensive and designed in an absurd way. Offering low-cost voice and data packages and then tying those with some of their existing digital services would make better sense for both business and growth in the long run.

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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at

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