Badminton: How India’s men are finally getting out of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu’s shadow

K Srikanth and B Sai Praneeth will play the quarter-finals of the Superseries Australia in Sydney on Friday.

In the past, a meeting of all Indians at this stage would have seen amateurs rejoice because it would mean that India would guarantee a place in the semifinals. Instead, the underlying feeling that it is now such a shock in competition is likely to steal India from somewhere else at the end of the company to a tournament.

The feeling of being changed short is understandable given the graphic performance of the Indian hunter men in the last 12 months.

Since the Rio Olympic Games, Indian men have won three Superseries titles and recorded two finalists with at least one or two players, which always makes the last step. Add to that a large number of Grand-level titles and finished runners and one can safely say that the Indian men days that were considered as companions of the international circuit are passed.

It goes without saying that the Indians have not won titles in the past. Srikanth bagged two Superseries crown in 2015, while Aravind Bhat, P Kashyap, Ajay Jayaram and even Sameer Verma had Grand Prix gold titles to show their efforts in the past.

However, most of these podiums were considered triumphs and consistency ahead for the missing titles. But India has won the last two Superseries titles and HS Prannoy become a match point in the second game of the semi-final against Kazumasa Sakai, both have seen their peak point of India shock.

So what has changed for men since PV Sindhu came home with an Olympic silver medal in Rio?

It’s not as if the men found a magic potion that helped transform them from being talented pilots to champions. While Saina Nehwal and Sindhu make the stars with their performances and songs, the men had shown the depth in number in recent years with at least half a dozen in the top 100 and at least some making the world’s top 20 consistently ranking positions .

Currently, India has six in the top 35 and has four in the World Championship in August. And the competition is improving among Indian men with youngsters like Sameer Verma Harsheel Dani Lakshya Sen pushing the stars set by a place on the national team.

But what has really changed in the last two years, thanks to the success of Nehwal and Sindhu is the hunger to win titles, and not just settle for team rankings and selections. This meant that players are ready to take a break and train harder after returning from an injury or even for minor nuisances.

Sai Praneeth has not participated in a tournament for almost seven weeks after a shoulder injury just before the high level nationals in February and although he took the time to hit the ground on the international circuit he was the first to believe Their fitness levels for the Singapore Superseries title improvement.

Another catalyst for the sudden upward performance chart is the arrival of Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo and his assistant Hariawan in early 2017. Former world champion and Olympic champion Taufiq Hidayat’s Olympic coach entered in when the coach of the national team leader Pullela Gopichand Was in trouble to do justice to the growing demand of his time and body with the growing group of artists.

COVERSTORY BSNL/Bharti Reliance Tata Reliance Vodafone Idea Aircel Trik

more evolved for 4G, while Jio ini­tially took on 2,300 MHz. Only later did Jio apply and securel,800 MHz in the auction of February 2014 by paying Rs 11,100 crore as spectrum fees. In the auction this year in March, Jio secured spectrum in the 800 MHz band for another Rs 10,100 crore. The spectrum auction fees are not paid in one go, but is spread over the licence period. And yet, it is still a substantial cost to op­erators and the reason why their in­vestment in infrastructure is low.

Jio employees say they have been able to integrate the 1,800 MHz and 2,300 MHz bands for rolling out their services. Industry sources say this integration is not easy and is a technology challenge. Industry ob­servers say the company is still work­ing on the integration of800 MHz, while the 1,800 MHz and 2,300 MHz integration is complete. This means the rollout will not be a big one of both voice and data across the country. The first phase will be in those 13 circles in which Jio has both 1,800 MHz and 2,300 MHz. This will be followed later with a rollout in circles where Jio has just 800 MHz.

Data Is King

Jio may roll out over the coming years and cover 800 cit­ies, but it is not seen as a challenge for voice services. Its biggest advantage is that it is a data network and offers far superior speed than anything else (The Thrills of Speed).

Data revenues are growing fast for all the operators. In

RISING RETURNS

Data revenues are growing fastforalloperators

fact, the smaller operators with lim­ited circles sell more data packages than voice. For instance, if you notice the advertising of Sistema Shyam Teleservices, which sells telecom ser­vices under the brand name MTS, you would think it is an Internet ser­vice provider, selling dongles. Simi­larly, Tata-DoCoMo also positioned itself as a data service provider. Air- tel’s data revenue as a percentage of total mobile revenue is in the range of 16 per cent to 17 per cent and growing much faster than its voice revenues. Every operator is witness­ing a similar growth in data volumes and revenues. This is the low hang­ing fruit that Jio is expected to capture by becoming the second SIM in existing handsets. Consumers may con­tinue to use voice with their existing providers, but for heavy data usage they will shift to a Jio SIM.

Which is why one of the first apps that Jio launched is a WhatsApp clone called, uninspiringly, Jio Chat. The app allows users to video chat, besides a few other bells and whistles. It may not have caught popular attention but it did trigger an action from operators, who first began fa­vouring some apps and choking bandwidth for others. While the issue was labelled as a Net Neutrality battle, it was really more of a peremptory strike by incumbents against Jio’s app-based strategy.

Jio’s strategy is not just about apps; it includes a combi­
nation of products and services. Jio Chat is an example of one such product, which can be downloaded on any phone and can work with any operator, though to realise its true potential you might need a second SIM card from Jio.

Breaking Out In Hotspots

A similar product is offering broadband wi-fi services in select locations. Jio has been studying user behaviour pat­terns in Ahmedabad by offering broadband wi-fi services in six-eight locations. These services are in malls and open public spaces. The company may offer more such hotspots to let people experience Jio services.

Wi-fi is an important area for all telecom operators. Vodafone, Airtel and even Idea seem to be developing hot­spots or working with wi-fi operators. Jio is using a blend of LTE and wi-fi networks to provide connectivity in select spots, but this will only proliferate. It is working with state governments and city authorities to provide wi-fi services, according to the Reliance Industries annual report for 2014-15.

 

RAMPING UP APPS        Another product that Jio is

Jio s WhatsApp clone, Jio planning to launch is My-fi, a Chat, triggered action       „              …             , . , , .

from rival operators               small credit card-sized device

that one can carry to create small wi-fi zones. This is a product for todays digital connected- everywhere generation. Jio officials confirm the device ex­ists and there are pictures of it floating online. The pricing for My-Fi is said to be Rs 1,800-2,000 but this is conjec­ture. Technically, people could use their existing phones combined with My-Fi to make voice or video calls, pro­vided the data charges are low; so low that users won’t think about their consumption patterns while using it.

High-speed broadband connectivity over fibre and wireless-to-home is another product that the company is developing, according to its annual report and other
sources. One of its breakthrough products uses a micro base station installed outside the home. This will provide a number of services. Technically, this base station can provide video content for IP-enabled TVs and of course, broadband into the house. This is expected to disrupt DTH service providers, who are the only HD quality TV services providers.

Jio has also developed a bigger version of its micro base station to service a whole colony. This unnamed station can also function as a wi-fi hub like the GBM towers. It is small enough to be placed on an electric pole and has been developed by Cisco under its small cell network. It covers a radius of50-60 metres.

Within its content services, Jio is also planning to launch a set-top box that can replace existing DTH boxes. With these, one can watch the past seven days of pro­gramming from the cloud. It also allows people to buy and download movies and keep them in the cloud to watch later. To make this possible the company has invested in a data centre to host these services. While the size and ca­pacity of the centres is not known, its existence gives Jio a big edge and pitches them against not just telecom opera­tors, but also digital services providers like Googles You­Tube or even Facebook’s WhatsApp Messenger. Both these Internet companies are not able to offer high quality HD content as their data centres are outside the country.

The data centre is also important as Jio is offering VoLTE that perforce requires a telecom cloud. Sandeep Girotra of Nokia says, “For VoLTE to successfully take off in India, an underlying IMS (IP multimedia systems) net­work is a must. This also requires a gradual shift towards Telco Cloud, where many of the IMS infrastructure can be on a cloud platform, making it faster and easier for new applications like VoLTE to be deployed.”

As for Airtel’s plans to bundle content along with its 4G service, Srini Gopalan says: “Differentiating telecom ser­vices using content is old school. There are obvious limita­tion of both content and bandwidth here. There is a short­age of spectrum and till it is resolved it is not possible to realise the potential of mobile broadband.”

Airtel is not the only sceptic. Other companies like Vodafone and Idea are also not following a strategy to seed the market with both content and devices. Jio, as a pioneer, has to create the market and has no choice but to shoot the arrows and scare away competition. It is also hoping that the seeds it has been sowing for so long, will give it a rich harvest soon. ED

  1. Yatish Rajawat is a smiorjournalist based in Delhi

& @yatiskrajawat For more on telecom, visit www.businessworld.in

HE ROLLOUT OF RELIANCE JIO’S 4G SERVICE this time may cause ripples, but not waves or a tsunami as the entry of Reliance Infocomm had caused in 2001, supported by distortions in policy framework then. There have been massive expectations in the tele­com sector ever since Reliance Industries (RIL) acquired a majority stake in Infotel Broadband, which won pan-India broadband wireless access (BWA) licenses in the 2010 auction. The expectations have hinged on Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance’s re-entry into the telecom space through Reliance Jio Infocomm. The Reliance group’s foray into the mobile segment in 2001 via Reliance Infocomm had challenged and practically trans­formed the country’s telecom landscape through its market-disruptive strategies through blatant policy manipulations and large-scale operations. Back then, Reliance was instru­mental in introducing various offerings at dirt-cheap prices, which went on to revolution­ise wireless growth in India. The industry, experts and users are now expecting a very similar wave to sweep the broadband segment.

Coming to the positive side, Reliance Jio does have several inherent strengths as a com­pany. It always had the financial backing of RIL, one of the largest business entities in the country. Due to this, the company always had sizeable resources and in the past, it has been a market changer with disruptive marketing strategies. That is no longer a plus

point, when incumbents too are well entrenched, tech­nologically and financially. In the past three to four years, Reliance has managed to build up significant ca­pacity. It has a fairly large and geographically well- spread network and Reliance has always seemed to maintain cordial relations with top government offi­cials. Somehow, whenever someone decides to analyse its history, they realise that various policies were tweaked to favour them from time to time.

Reliance Jio aims to become India’s largest telecom player within three years of its service launch and to break even by the end of the third year of operations, many believe that Reliance Jio can change the pecking order in the world’s second-largest telecom market. But personally, we feel there are some major obstacles that Reliance Jio might be facing at the entry level. The po­tential challenges are very basic in nature, i.e. a weak device ecosystem, lack of backhaul network support and issues related to the low density of 4G networks. The al­ready saturated urban voice market and the incum­bents’ underutilised 3G networks will definitely pose challenges. Passive infrastructure sharing with existing incumbents will help Reliance Jio in the short-term only, but pan-India service strategy will require the es­tablishment of new towers and cables, leading to huge capital expenditures.

We believe that while the company may want to adopt the strategy of disruptive pricing again, the scenario has changed significantly over the past decade or so. Cus­tomers are more educated and spoilt now. They would need a strong reason to switch from one operator to an­other. Either the quality of service being offered by Reli­ance Jio has to be the key differentiator or the price strategy of the service has to be extremely attractive for majority Indians. However, this doesn’t seem to be an easy task in the ruthless telecom market that currently