Indian operator Vodafone Idea has introduced a service called Vodafone Idea Sakhi, which allows women to manage their security through their mobile phones, the operator said. Vodafone Idea Sakhi users can carry out mobile recharges privately, use emergency calling, and send an Emergency Alert containing their location to up to 10 mobile phone numbers.
The Sakhi mobile-based safety service is exclusively available to women who use Vodafone and Idea prepaid or postpaid services. Its features include Private Number Recharge, Emergency Alerts, Emergency Balance. Vodafone Idea Sakhi can be used on feature phones as well as smartphone, and the safety features can be accessed even when there is no balance or mobile internet connection, thus ensuring that the service is accessible to women at all times, the operator said.
To activate the Sakhi service, Vodafone and Idea customers can dial a special number and update their emergency contact numbers. When faced with a challenging situation, Sakhi users can make a call to a special short number free of charge to send emergency alerts to their contacts.
Market competitor Bharti Airtel also offers carrier-agnostic safety app called My Circle, which launched in April 2019 in partnership with the FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), the women’s business wing of the trade group FICCI. The app is designed to empower women in the event of any distress or panic situation. My Circle allows women to send SOS alerts to any five of their family or friends in 13 languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Bangla, Urdu, Assamese, Oriya and Gujarati.
Vodafone Idea Sakhi is an innovative offering that is bound to increase consumer confidence in the operator, as well as brand loyalty. Women in India are organizing and speaking out against misogyny and violence targeting women, and amid the campaign to protect women’s safety and dignity, this mobile-phone-based service is particularly appropriate and useful. More and more Indian women are recognizing the need to advocate for themselves and protect themselves, and Vodafone Idea Sakhi makes it possible for them to harness technology in order to do so, with ease and without added expense.
The features of the Sakhi service are all well thought-out. Sending out an emergency alert to a list of contacts is of course very useful if one is being attacked or entering into an unsafe situation, and the embedding of the caller’s location makes it easy for authorities or others to get to the place in time or at least have the information for an investigation. As for distress phone calls, the fact that Vodafone makes them available free of charge no matter what the subscriber’s account balance means that it is placing safety first and making sure that no one will ever be denied access to telephony during an emergency. Making the service available even on feature phones or when there is no data access for smartphones also speaks to the need for universal access. And finally, the Emergency Balance feature allows women to recharge their prepaid accounts without anyone knowing whether they have done so or by how much, thus protecting their privacy.
While it is true that Bharti Airtel’s service is potentially more appealing because it is carrier-agnostic, Vodafone Idea Sakhi has more features. Also, the fact that it is for subscribers only means that it will have the power to draw subscribers into the Vodafone ecosystem. And since it is very democratic, available to all subscribers irrespective of whether they are postpaid or prepaid, smartphone or non-smartphone users, it is a particularly powerful outreach on the part of the operator.