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Creating marketplaces

New MVNO - Prune case study

Vivek Malhotra, Founder of Prune, shares the story of the first MVNO in India. Despite facing unique challenges specific to the Indian market, it continues to expand.

About Indian market

India predominantly operates as a brick-and-mortar market. However, the telecommunications landscape is steadily shifting to online transactions, with a growing preference for digital experiences. In this context, the existing MVNOs are making efforts, but the current digital experience is not fully realized. When we move towards an online space, building trust becomes imperative. The market is notably price-sensitive, operating at a $3 ARPU. Despite a rapid 5G rollout, the adoption rate is not as robust as anticipated, but it's gradually progressing.

Building a brand is imperative in the digital space

Vivek Malhotra underscores the importance of traditional customer service as a pivotal factor in establishing customer trust. The company's offerings have been granted regulatory approval, distinguishing it in the uniquely regulated Indian market. Navigating the challenges of global competition, the company adheres to local regulations, even where KYC is not universally required. Alongside telecom services, the company offers a diverse range of complementary services, enhancing the overall user experience.

In terms of transparency, customers are provided with comprehensive insights into their usage patterns, granting them control and trackability. This includes monitoring network quality across the city, allowing the company to recommend a more suitable network based on their requirements. Consequently, users have autonomy over data usage and network quality assessment.

Dual role as an MVNO and aggregator

In his description of the company's operations, Vivek Malhotra highlights its dual roles. From the standpoint of domestic connectivity, the company primarily serves as an aggregator of telecom operators due to the existing regulatory constraints in India, which currently do not permit a full-fledged MVNO setup. This limitation arises from the pricing dynamics, making direct competition in this sphere unviable. To address this challenge, the company has expanded its offerings to include services such as regulated foreign exchange operations, bill payments as a FinTech platform, the provision of devices and accessories, and the facilitation of travel insurance.  Their platform incorporates e-commerce functionality, enabling customers to order SIM cards with tracking capabilities. When customers place orders, they leverage a network of partners across the city. The order is dispatched to the partner who first accepts it, completing the KYC process, delivering the SIM card, and activating the connection, typically within 90 minutes.

In the second role as one of the pioneering international telecom operators, the company enables users to explore and select plans for their travel destinations, undergoing a two-step KYC verification process. The system ensures a thorough process, distinguishing real users from automated processes, culminating in delivering the SIM card within two days.

Bright future ahead

Vivek expresses considerable pride in their ongoing competition with telcos in the market. In the previous month, an impressive 40% of their orders were prepaid, a feat not seen by other operators who experience a zero percent prepaid order rate. Alongside core telecom services, their platform also offers a variety of supplementary services as mentioned earlier, with plans to introduce new ones.

40% of orders. This contrasts with ownership statistics in many countries, where female ownership may be around 50% of users but less than 10% in terms of ownership. Their platform empowers women, eliminating the need for them to venture out for services across multiple locations.

Another noteworthy initiative is their Wi-Fi aggregation in Central Business District (CBD) areas. As pioneers in this field, they aggregate Wi-Fi networks, enabling customers to connect, select plans (e.g., 200 MB or 300 MB), and pay within their app. 

Additionally, their platform serves as more than a transactional space; it's a channel for engaging social media content covering diverse topics like tech discussions, travel experiences, and device-related talks. Despite a small team of around 30 people, they remain dedicated to driving change.

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