Vodafone India has introduced a service called Vodafone Sakhi, targeted at women in rural areas in the states of UP-West and Uttarakhand. Users of the postpaid service will be able to recharge it privately through an OTP (one-time password) code, without sharing their mobile number. This code can also be used for all recharges done over a 24-hour period. In addition, an emergency calling feature provides women with 10 minutes of voice calls even with a zero balance on their account. A bonus pack giving health and beauty tips is offered free of charge for the first 90 days. Vodafone Sakhi is available for a starting price of INR 52.00 (US $0.78).
As we have reported frequently in these pages, mobile operators have found a winning strategy in getting to know their customers’ needs intimately and catering to them appropriately, and the more thinly the demographic is sliced, the better this approach works.
Vodafone India has identified a socioeconomic trend among women in rural areas and directly moved to meet it. The Vodafone Connected Women Report for 2014 found that there is a worldwide gender gap in which 300 million fewer women than men owned mobile phones and that this gap is most pronounced in developing nations.
As for India in particular, Dilip Kumar Ganta, Vodafone India’s business head for UP-West and Uttarakhand, recently said, “Our studies show that women in rural areas face socio-economic challenges in accessing mobile services. They tend to follow a shared phone concept, as they are hesitant to share their mobile number due to security concerns. They rely almost entirely on incoming calls and depend on their families for recharges. ‘Vodafone Sakhi’ has been designed especially to bridge the telecom needs of women in rural areas and address their barriers to access mobile services at will.”
This extremely affordable offer is sensitively designed and should help women to join the community of mobile users without fear. Such an initiative makes the operator look good and also ultimately boosts the customer base.