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zMessenger, Sri Lanka’s largest mobile marketing solutions provider will bring together top brand leaders from FMCG, hospitality, banking and financial services to the Island’s first roundtable on mobile marketing scheduled for Thursday, 30th October, 2014

The event titled Embracing Mobile Mind Shift – Mobile Moments are the Frontline of Customer Experience will look at the impact of rapidly increasing mobile connectivity on customer expectations.

“Mobile phones are proving to be an effective and affordable marketing channel and in the face of this mobile boom, customers are in the midst of a total mind shift. Their expectations have changed. Whilst they have lost interest in a marketing message, they now demand utility and they expect it now. We thought its timely to focus on how brand leaders across different industries understand this shift and respond to it by creating mobile moments that would transform customer experience and supply them with mobile utility,” Jayomi Lokuliyana, Co-Founder and CEO of zMessenger said.

The roundtable will see expert panelists Siddharth Banerjee, Country Marketing Director – Unilever Sri Lanka, Tharanga Gunasekera, Head of Marketing and Communications – HSBC Sri Lanka, Mangala Wickramasinghe, Head of e-Banking Services –  HNB and Co-Founder of the Ministry of Crab and Kaema Sutra restaurants, Dharshan Munidasa addressing the gathering on diverse topics spanning from customer engagement to delivery of financial services through mobile phones and the power of mobile context to mobile services in the hospitality sector.

The mobile marketing roundtable will also highlight and profile various ground-breaking mobile marketing efforts of ‘new-age’ corporate such as Unilever Sri Lanka, a driver of effective marketing.

zMessenger is an award winning integrated mobile media company that offers a wide range of solutions from planning, creating and execution of effective marketing campaigns, branded communication applications and content distribution strategies.

zMessenger that first introduced SMS based applications to local media stations also enjoy a leading position in the overall ‘new media’ marketing space for digital. It is also the only mobile marketing services solution provider in Sri Lanka.

The company recently launched Bigbon, a mobile app that allows customers to pick and choose the best deals offered by credit cards, loyalty cards and favorite retailers and restaurants. Bigbon which is completely customizable allows users to explore the deals at a specific location by turning on the “Augmented Reality” feature which displays a list of deals in close proximity to the user. The app also generates a report offering merchants an insight into customer preferences.

“With the journey we’ve come so far, it’s only benefitting for zMessenger to hold the country’s first ever Mobile Marketing Roundtable. We believe that this endevour will help broaden our horizons and consolidate our position in the Island,” Lokuliyana said.

Event is invite only but will be live streamed via MMRColombo.

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These days we do a lot more than making calls on our mobile handsets. Many spend much more time on internet browsing or instant messaging than using the device for calling someone. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t see any innovation on the voice call front; given the ultimate purpose of phones, is to call others. In the last few weeks Mobile HD Voice has been one of the much publicised topics in the country. As the name suggests, we are talking about high quality voice calls in mobile networks, with an improved user experience.

A new innovation?

HD Voice service was first introduced to Sri Lanka by Dialog, back in early 2012. Dialog was the 42nd operator, globally, to introduce the service to their customers. Last month Etisalat became the second operator in Sri Lanka (and 107th operator globally) to add this feature to their network offerings. So, clearly it is not entirely new to Sri Lanka.

So what exactly does HD Voice mean? And how does it work?

To start with, HD Voice is an umbrella term that refers  to the technologies that enhance the quality of an audio call (or even the ‘audio’ part of a video call). Yes, that means there are more than one technology used together or separately to achieve the ¨HD Voice functionality¨…or rather the improvement.

HD Voice improves the quality of the voice call. It provides more natural sounding calls. HD Voice also helps people hear better in noisy environments by reducing the background noise, using noise cancelling techniques. Which means, with HD Voice, your caller’s voice will sound less robotic and you will be able to differentiate between ‘s’ and ‘f’ easily. Overall HD Voice improves the user experience. This is not something new. VoIP services like Skype has been using such feature for a long time and probably you have used it too, but we are talking about bringing the feature to mainstream mobile voice communication.

The technology behind HD Voice

There are three mechanisms that are widely used to achieve the HD Voice functionality.

Frequency Range: Narrowband vs Wideband. (Image Source: road2it)

Frequency Range: Narrowband vs Wideband. (Image Source: road2it)

First, doubling the audio bandwidth. Instead of limiting a voice call to the current narrow-band frequency range of 300 Hz and 3.4 KHz, HD Voice makes use of Wideband audio technology that transmits at the range of 50 Hz to 7 KHz. To achieve this, operators use an audio codec called Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband (AMR-WB), which doubles the audio bandwidth compared to traditional  telephony. In ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) terms AMR-WB is codified as G.722.2 codec.

Secondly, improved acoustic design. This is more or less something that the device manufacturers need to focus on. Since HD Voice utilizes greater bandwidth with the help of AMR-WB codec, the devices too need to be designed in a way to utilize the greater bandwidth offered to them. Here’s where acoustic design comes into play. Components like the microphone and speaker need to be of good quality and they need to be well integrated to the device, in such a way to optimize the HD voice features.

Thirdly, redesigned signal processing algorithms. Processing of the audio (in the background ) is an essential part of the whole process. The algorithms that handle this part, are capable of handling higher ‘sampling rate’ compared to regular voice calls. Regular voice calls take 8000 audio samples per second (8 KHz) to process the call. In HD Voice it is doubled to 16000 audio samples per second (16 KHz). Hence, users will be able to hear ‘more details’ from a person’s voice. Another algorithm used in this process is a noise suppressor. This helps in reducing the background noise while a person is using HD Voice.

Global availability

According to the latest report published by Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) on 2nd June 2014, 109 mobile operators across 73 countries around the world have launched the HD Voice service for public. And Sri Lanka is one of the 22 countries which has more than one operator offering the service.

HD Voice: Global Availability. (Image Courtesy: Global Mobile Suppliers Association)

HD Voice: Global Availability.
(Image Courtesy: Global Mobile Suppliers Association)

As I mentioned before, Dialog (the largest mobile service provider in Sri Lanka) introduced the service on their 3G/HSPA network back in February, 2012. Etisalat joined the club last month (May 2014) by upgrading their 3G/HSPA framework with this capability. On GSM/HSPA platforms, all it takes the operator is to upgrade their existing network infrastructure(i.e no need to add new base station components), in order to offer HD Voice service. Since HD Voice feature is an upgrade to the operators existing infrastructure, they will not be charging you extra for the service. You will be charged the regular rates when you make a call, while the call quality gets better. Sounds cool, right? Well, read further!

Requirements to experience HD Voice

That brings us to the important part. As an end user (customer/ subscriber) what does it take you to experience mobile HD? Well there are few requirements.

1- Your phone and the phone on the other end need to be HD Voice compatible.

Imagine this like calling someone on Skype. Just like you both need to have Skype installed on your devices to make the video call, both devices need to be ‘HD Voice compatible’ to use the HD Voice service offered by your mobile service provider.
According to GSA report of March, 2014, there are at-least 329 mobile phones from 19 manufacturers that support HD Voice (AMR-WB, currently available. Most of the new devices introduced daily, are compatible with the feature. You can have a look at the device list here.

Does my phone needs to be a smartphone?

Not really. AMR Wideband was first developed by Nokia. HD Voice technology was first implemented in 2009, when the number of smartphones were limited. And Nokia was one of the first manufacturer to integrate the technology in their handsets including the ones that ran S40 and Symbian S60 OS. Hence, your device does not need to fit into ‘smartphone’ category to experience HD voice. But it should be compatible with AMR-WB. Most new devices released these days support it. (So, in my opinion, ‘lack of smartphones in the market’ is not the only reason for ‘less public awareness’ about the service, over the years). Given many phones don’t come with extensive user manuals these days, you can simply Google the model name or refer to this list provided by GSA to check the availability of AMR-WB on your device.

2- Both devices need to be connected to HD capable base station

Both the caller and receiver need to be connected to the HD Voice capable base station of their respective network. In Sri Lanka’s case it should be 3G/HSPA stations of Dialog and Etisalat since both networks support HD Voice over 3G/HSPA network. (Instead of GSM(2G) or LTE).

Does that mean you need to be connected HSPA (Data)?

No. Actually some media outlets have reported that you have to be connected to 3G (as in data) to experience this. Even Etisalat’s media report claims you need to be ‘connected to 3G’ – but what they actually mean is that you need to be connected to a 3G capable  base station.

This should not be confused with VoLTE or Voice over LTE which puts voice and data in a single radio layer. Here calls are carried over IP technology (same as data) instead of circuit switched path (regular calls) used in HSPA networks like Dialog or Etisalat. VoLTE supporting networks are currently limited  to 8 worldwide, and VoLTE supporting device are limited too. LTE offered by Sri Lankan networks is limited to data only at the moment. (i.e – you can’t make voice calls when your network mode is set to ‘LTE Only’ on Dialog or Mobitel)

Again, just because your carrier supports HD voice does not mean they support it all around the country. Reason is, there are places that have only GSM(2G) base stations instead of HSPA ones. So if your device is connected to a 3G base station and your friend’s is not, even though you both have compatible devices, then you will not be able to experience it.

Interoperability: Another less publicised, but very important requirement for HD Voice is that when the call involves two different networks, they both need to be using HD Voice on compatible network modes in-order for HD Voice to work. (Wait, what?) Yes, that is because HD Voice technology is not inter-operable at the moment. At the time of writing, as I mentioned above, both Etisalat and Dialog support HD voice on their HSPA network. But, I have not got enough data that confirms that both networks are compatible with each other. Which means there is a chance that caller and receiver need to be on the same network to experience the feature. The problem widely exists in the US since different networks support HD Voice in different modes like GSM, CDMA and LTE. And not many devices are compatible with all these modes. Now, you know why HD Voice has not got great public attention over the years. That is because not many people have been able to experience it even though they have a compatible phone and they are on a compatible network.

Growth of HD Voice (Image Courtesy: Global Mobile Suppliers Association)

Growth of HD Voice
(Image Courtesy: Global Mobile Suppliers Association)

So that brings us to the important question…is HD Voice another gimmick?

I will safely say it is not. It has been practically proved that HD Voice improves user experience by increasing call quality and reducing background noises. (Simply do a YouTube search to check some demos). In my opinion it should be supported by default on all handsets and all networks should adopt to it. What is keeping us behind is the compatibility issues, which is a shame.

What does the future hold?

Sri Lanka has been one of the first countries to bring latest mobile innovations to public, thanks to our wonderful service providers (yes, seriously). We are one of the first to have LTE in the region. VoLTE or Voice over LTE is seen as the next big trend in voice communications. GSA says that Sri Lanka is actually testing this service. I foresee a future where major networks in Sri Lanka adopt to VoLTE that provides seamless connectivity and HD Voice on the same platform without any hassle. It is always good to be optimistic!

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Dialog eZ Cash has become the world’s first fully integrated mobile money service after joining hands with Etisalat, another leading mobile service provider in Sri Lanka. There were speculations from last month about this landmark deal which has been in works from last year, after Dialog announced that the next phase of eZ Cash service is to expand it to other service providers. Even the outgoing Etisalat CEO Dumindra Ratnayaka recently said in a local interview that Etisalat is considering joining hands with eZ Cash and mCash, for mobile banking solutions, rather than starting their own service. And yesterday, the two companies hosted a joint press briefing where they officially announced the expansion of the service, after relevant approvals were obtained from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

According to GSMA, there are more than 225 mobile money deployments around the world, as of March 2014. And this is the first time that such a partnership has been formed between two rival service providers to deliver end to end interoperable mobile money service. Speaking at the press meet, operations expert from the GSMA’s Mobile Money for the Unbanked programme, Gerald Rasugu stressed the importance of awareness on the mobile money/ mobile banking initiatives to the general public.

eZ Cash: Introduction and Current Status

Dialog, Sri Lanka’s leading mobile service provider launched the revolutionary eZ Cash service around 2 years ago, approved by CBSL under the payments and settlements act No.28 of 2005. I used to have a personal blog at that time and did a post on how eZ Cash works on any USSD enabled mobile phones. You can check it out here. eZ Cash turns your mobile phone into a secure mobile wallet, and allows you to make transactions or send and receive money around the country. Last year when the service completed its first anniversary, the GSMA published a detailed infographic showing the growth of eZ Cash in Sri Lanka. According to that, Dialog – the market leader in Sri Lanka has around 8 million mobile subscribers and Etisalat, third in line in terms of market shares boasts more than 4.5 million subscribers.

The new partnership will bring the eZ Cash service to around 12.5 million Sri Lankans around the country, which by number, is equivalent to more than 60% of the Sri Lankan population. Last June, Dialog announced 1 million registered users for the eZ Cash service out of which 20% were active users. Dialog also reported that they handled Rs.6 Billion worth of transactions last year and currently they are processing Rs.700 million worth of transactions per month. These numbers are bound to rise with Etisalat joining the club. Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Hans Wijesuriya, Group CEO of Dialog Axiata PLC, thanked the CBSL for maintaining open regulations that let to the success of the eZ Cash service.

For The New Users: What Can You Do With Ez Cash

Dialog eZ Cash allows anyone to send and receive money through mobile phones. One can top up for eZ Cash at any merchants and then send the money to anyone around the country. The receiver has the ability to withdraw the money at a similar merchant outlet. This hassle free method also becomes useful to those who can’t utilize the conventional banking facilities. eZ Cash model offers more secure and widely available service options. (Verification PINs are sent to the user’s handset before completing the transactions). Ez cash also allows the users to pay various bills including utility bills (CEB, NWSDB etc). It also gives the option to pay insurance premiums through mobile phones. The service provides secure option for users to make payments for their online purchases. There are also more than 100 partner merchants who accept eZ Cash payments. Dialog also has a dedicated hotline (7111) for eZ Cash. They have also launched a very informative website for the service as well as an Android app for ease of use on smartphones.

How Does The New Inter-Operable Model Works?

As you already know, eZ Cash services can be accessed through #111# USSD commands on the mobile phones. Etisalat subscribers who register for the eZ Cash service will be able to use the same method to perform the transactions. The USSD menu will consist of the same options which are offered for Dialog customers. The user experience will not be affected for different service providers. Even the costs (service charges) born by customers will be the same. Dialog currently has over 16000 eZ Cash merchants around the country. It will continue to remain responsible for managing this agent network, while adding any customer service networks of the new providers on request. As a first step Dialog has added the flagship stores of Etisalat that are located around the country, and selected service points to this network. Dialog will also manage overall customer service issues that arise during the transactions. But Etisalat will be requested to look into any issues faced by customers they bring into the service. Hatton National Bank continues to act as the custodian bank for the service and the service will be further secured by a trust agreement administered by Deutsche Bank. A third party service provider like KPMG or PWC will act as a Customer Profile Manager in between the eZ Cash platform and Etisalat.

eZ Cash: World's First Inter-operable Mobile Money Service (Pic. Courtesy: GSMA)

eZ Cash: World’s First Inter-operable Mobile Money Service (Pic. Courtesy: GSMA)

There will also be a revenue share agreement between Dialog and any other provider joining hands with them – in this case, Etisalat. Accordingly, Etisalat will be sharing the transaction revenue from the eZ Cash service with Dialog,

1- for using the eZ Cash brand which has been established and marketed by Dialog

2- for making use of the eZ Cash platform built by Dialog and

3- for benefiting from the already established & managed Dialog merchant network

On Dialog’s side, they will be getting additional revenue and wider user base for their eZ Cash platform. And from Etisalat’s point they get to offer mobile banking service to their customer base at a fraction of a cost that they would have encountered to deploy their own service.

Looking at the customer base numbers after the new partnership, eZ Cash service looks less challenged by the competitor mCash service offered by Mobitel. But it is also notable that outgoing Etisalat CEO recently noted that they are also considering to join hands with mCash along with eZ Cash, though I’m not sure whether there will be any need to proceed with that move.

Challenges and Future

The primary challenge I noticed when the service was first announced, was the adaptability issues faced by merchants. The merchants were reluctant to allow customers to withdraw money since the business model was new and strange. But Dialog had taken much efforts to educate merchants on the benefits of the service.

According to experts, there are more than 225 mobile banking services deployed in various ,markets. It shows the growing trend of mCommerce. But it is notable that many of the services around the world are facing adaptability issues due to various reasons and Dialog’s interoperable model is expected to be adopted by many other service providers around the globe.

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Dumindra Ratnayaka, Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Lanka (Pvt) Ltd will retire at the end of March this year.

He became the CEO of Etisalat Lanka (Pvt) Ltd in 2009, when Tigo was acquired by Etisalat UAE. He completes 25 years of service to Celltel, Tigo and Etisalat, in which he held the CEO position for nearly 14 years. He was one of the pioneers who introduced mobile telephone technology to the country.

Under his guidance, Etisalat Lanka reached the hearts of the Sri Lankans and within a very short time period, managed to emerge as a Telco giant in the country. Sunday Times reports he will be succeeded by a Board Director.

All of us here at diGIT wish Mr. Dumindra Ratnayaka all the very best.

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Reward schemes or loyalty programmes are nothing new to Sri Lanka. We have had various merchants and service providers offering different schemes to impress their customers. Even the ‘meter taxi’ operators have reward schemes these days. In some cases customers get entitled for the programs automatically (E.g Dialog Star Points). In some reward schemes customers are required to make a small initial investment (to cover the cost of a plastic card?)(E.g reward schemes from shopping chains like Arpico and Nolimit). There are also schemes that require the customer to be in an elite group. Take for example Dialog’s priority membership and the Club Vision categories.

Etisalat is the latest entrant to come up with a “unique” reward scheme for their loyal customers. Etisalat, being one of the top players in the Sri Lankan telecommunications scene, and with growing speculations that they might actually acquire the Sri Lankan arm of Bharti Airtel, might be making the correct move to show their customers that they care.

They have named the scheme “Epic Rewards” – an “opt-in” programme for their customers. The official launch was held last Wednesday (28th August) at Galadari Hotel,Colombo and the diGIT team was there to cover the event.

How does Epic Rewards work?

Epic Rewards is about “Rings”. Rings are what you earn in Epic Rewards (just like you earn “points” with most other schemes) but the difference here is that the “Rings” do not have a monetary value. This, I am saying because in most other schemes 1 point is equivalent to 1 rupee.

Why hasn’t Etisalat defined a value for the Rings?

They have let the merchants decide the value for the Rings. So each offer you get with the scheme will have a different value for the “Rings”. For example one of the partner merchants may require the customer to redeem 50 Rings to get a 10 percent discount on the bill whereas another merchant may require the customer to redeem 100 Rings to get Rs.1000 discount on the listed item. So this scheme is more flexible from the merchant’s perspective.

Who is entitled & how does one get enrolled?

Both postpay and prepaid customers of Etisalat are entitled for the Epic rewards scheme. Customers have various methods to join the programme. They can either

1) Dial the 7272 IVR code or

2) Enter the #7272# USSD code on their phone or

3) Contact the Etisalat call center on 123 or 0722 123 123 or

4) Walk into one of the flagship stores – to join the Epic Rewards programme.

Speaking at the launch event, Etisalat Senior Manager – Prepaid Marketing & Customer Loyalty, Shameel Bishri explained that they actually did a vast market research among merchants and their customers to understand what they actually wanted from a reward scheme and what, in their opinion was lacking in the existing reward schemes of different players.

With the outcome, Etisalat has defined five categories in which the Epic rewards offers will be given. They are ,

1- Fashion & Entertainment

2- Travel & Leisure

3- Sports & Health

4- Dining & Household

5- Business & Learning

The customer is given a chance to select any 3 of the above categories as his or her preference. While I was wondering why they had to limit the offering as such, Etisalat feels that this way, it is beneficial for the customer to choose the offers that actually matter to him/her the most. Etisalat feels this will also give the customer a more personalized experience compared to other schemes that sometimes offer irrelevant offers. Etisalat also tells us that the customer will be given the opportunity to change the categories of his interest after joining the scheme.

Etisalat has also defined 3 achievement levels to the scheme. This has been done to serve the “elite” customers (who spend more on the network) with some extra benefits. The following chart explains how this works. Depending on their average spending for the past 6 months, the Rings are multiplied to those who have higher usage.

Membership

Membership Categories are defined by customer’s average usage for the last 6 months (pic courtesy Etisalat.lk)

How does one earn Rings?

a) All Etisalat customers who register for the service will get an initial number of “Rings”  to welcome them to Epic rewards. The number of welcome Rings will also depend on the duration the customer had spent with the network. The following chart explains this aspect of the scheme. The more time you have been with Etisalat, the more welcome Rings you receive:

Duration spent with the Network

Rings

6 months

25

1 Year

30

2 Years

40

3 Years

50

4 Years

60

5 Years

100

Above 5 Years

150

b) The members will also receive 20 Rings every 3 months for staying with Etisalat, from the time of registering for Epic rewards. (That is 80 Rings per year).

c) Customers earn Rings when they make payments or reload of minimum Rs.50 to their accounts. A payment or reload of 50 rupees is entitled for 5 Rings. A payment of Rs.100 will earn you 15 Rings. The following chart explains how this works. Also note, if you are a silver or gold member, the number of rigs you earn will get multiplied.

Number of Rings earned for the payment (pic courtesy Etisalat.lk)

Number of Rings earned for the payment (pic courtesy Etisalat.lk)

For example a green member who makes a payment of Rs.2675 will receive 395 Rings. The following chart gives a detailed explanation:

Rs.2000 (1000 x 2)

150 x 2 = 300 Rings

Rs.500

75 x 1 = 75 Rings

Rs.100

15 x 1 = 15 Rings

Rs. 50

5 x 1 = 5 Rings

Rs. 25

0 Rings

Total = Rs.2675

395 Rings

If the said customer was a Gold member, the Rings will get doubled. He will earn 790 Rings..

d) Additionally, members get 10 Rings every month for paying their bill in full and before the due date. Bonus Rings are also awarded during special promotions run by Etisalat.

e) Further to the above, any customer who purchases mobile phones or internet equipment from Etisalat also will receive Rings for the amount they spent. More details on the number of Rings will be updated soon.

How does one burn Rings and is there any expiry date?

Etisalat says that the members will be notified about offers for their selected categories via SMS, email and voice. (Sounds like spam? Well, you get offers). The said messages will have the details of the offers and the required number of Rings to be redeemed to be entitled for the offer. Customers can then proceed to make the transaction.

The best part of the Epic Rewards is that the Rings do not have an expiry date. Which means the Rings can be accumulated over time and used at once. This also gives an opportunity even for the customer with the lowest usage to earn Rings over a long period and enjoy the offers.

Another notable feature is that you are not required to keep any number of Rings as non-redeemable base points. All Rings that are earned can be redeemed. Customers will be able to check their balance Rings via the #7272# USSD code. We do think that Etisalat should work on a smartphone app or a web-based dashboard (through Etisalat MyPage maybe?) for the user to manage Rings conveniently. This service could also have a list of available offers too. It’s a suggestion from our end.

Can you transfer the Rings?

People obviously get this question when they want to redeem Rings. Can the Rings be transferred between different numbers/ people? No they can’t. Whatever the Rings a customer earns is valid only for his number. What if the customer has more than one connection under his name and want to accumulate the Rings in those accounts in order to redeem? Well, as of now that is not possible. But we assume Etisalat is working on it. We will update this article once such option is confirmed.

An option for the customer to nominate one of his numbers as primary and receive/transfer all Rings earned from his other numbers too to the primary one will be a useful feature in our opinion. Over to you Etisalat!

Where to redeem the Rings?

To start with, Etisalat has partnered with around 40 merchants (including all 5 categories) compared to Star Points scheme (same concept but differently executed by Dialog for a long time) that has hundreds of merchants now. In their defense, Etisalat has just started the scheme and they focus more on quality and relevance instead of quantity. The merchants have their outlets spread across the country though. Customers will be required to provide their mobile number to the merchants at the time of redemption. I am guessing they will have a USSD / SMS based portal to process the transaction.

Commenting on the Epic Rewards merchant network, CEO of Direct Solutions, Priyanga Hapugalle said: “A number of benefits that would benefit Epic Rewards members were kept in mind when selecting merchant partners. These included the island wide branch networks so that the members have easy access, special services and products that are relevant to member preferences and special offers during seasonal times throughout the year. In addition, merchants will be approached on a regular basis and encouraged to create offers that would be highly attractive to Epic Rewards members.” Apart from non-expiration of Epic Rings, another unique factor of the scheme according to Etisalat is the ability of members to move up the value table to increase the value of their Rings.

Some of Etisalat’s selected merchants are from Central province and some of the big chains (Arpico, Singer) are spread across the country. Etisalat said they are focusing to make the offers easily accessible to any of their customers around the island. Etisalat also noted that they have selected not only large merchants but also SMEs. Some well known names include Fashion Bug, No limit, DSI, LBN, Jetwing, JKH Hotels, Singer mega, Arpico, Asiri Hospitals, Metropolitan, Expographic and Vijitha Yapa books. Adding to our earlier suggestion, a smartphone app or a web interface with a list of merchants and the offers available with them, can be a welcome addition.

Etisalat has also planned to organize special events for their Epic Rewards members in the future.  Special seats at key sports events, fashion shows or music shows, reduced price entry to business conferences and events, special travel tickets for religious pilgrimages and weekend breaks at beach festival are few such planned events according to Etisalat.

Bottom line is Epic Rewards scheme is a welcome addition for Etisalat’s 4 million+ customer base. The success of the programme will definitely depend on how convenient it is to earn and burn Rings. It will also depend on the relevance of the offers to the customer’s lifestyle. Luckily Etisalat seem to be focusing to keep the scheme as relevant as possible to different sectors of their customer base. We will start to see the outcome when the scheme is launched later this month. We at Digit have tried to answer almost all your questions relating to the scheme (so that you do not have to call and wait on the ever-busy hotlines to clarify your doubts). Watch out this space for more updates when the programme is launched to public.

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Leading mobile telecommunications innovator Etisalat Lanka recently launched ‘Epic Rewards,’ a loyalty program open to all its post-pay and prepaid voice and data customers. Epic Rewards is an ‘opt-in’ program which gives the customer the choice of joining and selecting their preferred reward category.
Commenting at the Epic Rewards media conference, Etisalat Director/ CEO Dumindra Ratnayaka said: “As we embark on another milestone, we are privileged to introduced ‘Epic Rewards’ one of the most innovative loyalty programmes to be launched in the Sri Lankan mobile market. For the first time, customers are given the option of joining a loyalty program and the opportunity for them to select their reward. This is our way of saying ‘Thank You” to our base of over four million customers. In addition, Epic Rewards will be different because we will not only provide special offers at merchant outlets, we will also offer events and experiences to our customers.”
Once the customers choose to join Epic Rewards, they are presented with five personal preferences from which they can choose three. These preferences are: fashion and entertainment, travel and leisure, sports and health, dining and household and business and learning. Several options are available for customers to join this program; that is by dialling 7272, or #7272# from their Etisalat mobile, contacting the Etisalat call centre or by visiting any one of Etisalat Flagship stores located islandwide.
Epic Rewards will communicate its offers to the members via SMS, e-mail, voice and social media. Wherever possible, the merchants will be in the same area as the Epic rewards member. The points Epic Rewards members earn will be called ‘Rings,’ which the customers will start to earn by continuing their commitment to Etisalat, for post-pay bill payments, for prepaid reloads, subscribing to VAS, purchase of devices and more. ‘Rings’ can be redeemed through offers at participating partner merchants and at selected events offered exclusively for Epic Rewards members.
Further elaborating on the loyalty program Etisalat’s Senior Manager – Prepaid Marketing and Customer Loyalty, Shameel Bishri said: “We always want to give the best to our customers. So we have chosen these preferences according to the interests of our customers based on customer lifestyle management through research conducted to develop this program. Within these preferences, Epic Rewards will select both events and merchants that most closely match the preferences of each individual within the program. This ensures that our corporate proposition of ‘It’s about you’ is followed.”
Etisalat has chosen the merchant base together with its Strategic Partner – Direct Solutions for the program. They bring forth a wealth of expertise and experience in customer centric marketing through direct, digital and loyalty marketing concepts to design and develop the Epic program. Direct Solutions have created and delivered numerous customer loyalty and CRM programmes, both locally and internationally.
Commenting on the Epic Rewards merchant network, CEO of Direct Solutions, Priyanga Hapugalle said: “A number of benefits that would benefit Epic Rewards members were kept in mind when selecting merchant partners. These included the islandwide branch networks so that the members have easy access, special services and products that are relevant to member preferences and special offers during seasonal times throughout the year. In addition merchants will be approached on a regular basis and encouraged to create offers that would be highly attractive to Epic Reward members.”
Epic Rewards members will also have the opportunity to participate in a number of island wide events as well as those held exclusively for the members. These events will also closely match member preferences and can take many forms. These include; special seats at key sports matches, fashion shows or music shows, reduced price entry to business conferences and events, special travel tickets to religious events and weekend breaks at beach festivals.
The other features that sets apart Epic Rewards from other loyalty programs include; the change of merchants, non-expiration of Epic Rings, and the ability of members to move up the value table to increase the value of their rings and a greater variety of offers.

Source: DailyFT

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Twitter Premier League Sri Lanka, organized by Etisalat will take place on 01st of September at the Wesley College Grounds from 8.30 AM onwards. #TPLSL is celebrating its second consecutive year and so far it has inspired immense enthusiasm among the local cricket loving Twittersphere. We have brought you a detailed article earlier about the format of this year’s edition and also about how it all happened last year. This however is an update just a week before the big day.

Twenty four teams have been chosen from a community vote, where the Twittersphere voted for the respective Franchise Owners. The selected teams have been creative this year and have created their own social media profiles on Twitter and even on Facebook. Currently the teams are handling these profiles very imaginatively and has attracted a lot of support from their fellow Twitter comrades by becoming what Etisalat has termed as ‘Cheerleaders’.

Teams that would be playing in this year’s TPLSL are:

After the final twenty four teams were announced, the Franchise Owners were then given the chance to reserve four players for each of their respective teams. Afterwards they had the opportunity to bid for the rest of the team members based on a ‘Bidding Currency’ that was influenced by the Tweet Count of the owner.

Etisalat had the draw on the 28th August (video which is shown below) in front of a live audience via their Hangout YouTube channel.

With that we have the full #TPLSL Fixtures scheduled for 01st of September and they are as follows:

teams

TPLSL Team Draw (Thank you Isuru Dodangoda for the tweet earlier containing the team list)

It would be fascinating to watch how the Twitter comradery  transforms into friendly cricketing rivalry on the coming Sunday. All of us here at diGIT.lk wish all the very best to all the contesting teams and their supporters. 

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Bharti Airtel, the world’s fourth largest telecom operator by subscribers, is in advanced discussions to sell off its Sri Lankan operations to Abu Dhabi’s Etisalat, said two persons aware of the development.

According to one such person, Standard Chartered Bank is advising the Indian company in the transaction. Bharti AirtelBSE -2.60 % Lanka, which has a subscriber base of 1.7 million, has been valued between $110 million and $130 million. Etisalat is Sri Lanka’s third-largest operator with 4.5 million subscribers and it will move up to the second spot if the deal goes through.

3-300-1

Responding to a questionnaire on the sale of its operations to Etisalat, Airtel said as a policy it didn’t respond to market speculations. Standard Chartered declined comment while Etisalat could not be reached for comments. Sri Lanka reportedly has an addressable mobile market of about 22 million, with penetration levels of around 85%.

“In a country like Sri Lanka, an operator has to be either the largest or the second-largest to make money,” said the second person aware of the development, while explaining why the deal was important for the Abu Dhabibased operator. Airtel’s growth prospects in the island nation, on the other hand, were limited as it just had 1.7 million subscribers.

The company’s subscribers have not grown in the past four quarters and despite investing over $300 million since 2007, the unit continues to make losses. “The Sri Lankan operation has been a cash guzzler for Bharti,” said the first person.

While Bharti Airtel doesn’t report the financial numbers for Sri Lanka separately, sources told ET that the company had posted revenue of Rs 320 crore for the quarter ended June 2013 and a net loss of Rs 190 crore.

The company, which entered the Sri Lankan market in 2009 as the country’s fifth operator, offers 2G, 3G and 3.5G services in the island nation across all the 25 districts and it has built a distributor network of 40,500 retailers.

With a small population, the Sri Lankan market turned out to be a difficult game for India’s largest telecom operator whose foray had begun with stiff resistance from the local operators in 2009.

Fearing the size and scale of Airtel’s operations, incumbent operators had resisted giving interconnection to it, a trouble which later resolved. Airtel’s operations were later mired in controversy as it tried to launch a price war in the market, which was later thwarted by the telecom regulator for being anti-competitive.

(Source: The Economic Times)

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Etisalat Lanka, the leading mobile telecommunication service provider, expanded its flagship store network by adding two new flagship stores at Ja-Ela and Negombo towns simultaneously.
The Ja-Ela flagship store was opened at the popular K-Zone shopping complex while the Negombo flagship store is a revamped and upgraded existing sales and service access point. This expansion is part of its first phase in of the flagship store project where existing sales and service access points are upgraded, thereby increasing the number of touch points for customers to access Etisalat services in Colombo and suburbs.
A host of activities were organised and offers given to customers who stepped into the new flagship stores. These included a mobile broadband dongle offer, an Apple iPhone promotion, a Wi-Fi router promotion where the deposit was waived off for the Family Package as well as a Facebook photo sharing activity.
Speaking about the flagship store concept, Etisalat Lanka Chief Commercial Officer Robert Lee stated: “The Etisalat flagship store is a unique concept that we came up with in order for customers to experience our innovative products and services first hand. We are the first to introduce such a concept as we believe that it gives our customers the ideal opportunity to try out the latest technologies in the fast-changing world of mobile communications. Under Etisalat’s expansion plan, our target to end 2013 is by having a total of 50 flagship stores across the island. This will be made possible by converting existing dealer points to flagship stores. Additionally we will take all steps to standardise customer experience, service standards and product offering at all our customer touch points.”
The store’s ambience and innovative products would help to provide an enhanced customer experience and each flagship store will host Etisalat’s signature Android Forums, where in-depth sessions on the Android operating system and capabilities are showcased to the public.
Commenting on the launch of the latest two flagship stores, Etisalat Lanka Chief Sales Officer Sanjeewa Samarasinghe said: “Etisalat flagship stores provide our customers a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all their mobile communication needs. They also get the chance to touch and feel products offered by Etisalat. Our highly-trained sales and customer service staff are readily available to assist customers to ensure they are equipped with the right knowledge/information prior to purchasing the product or service.”
He added that Etisalat is a global brand and that this concept will enable the company to standardise the Group’s world class services and offer convenience, introduce innovative products to customers.
The Etisalat flagship stores features an Experience Centre displaying cutting-edge products aimed at enhancing lifestyles and empowering individual mobile communication needs. The flagship store allows customers to experience these products first-hand with useful insights from trained customer services personnel. The store also includes a Customer Care Point where products and services can be purchased as well as a Billing Centre where bill payments can be made.

Source: DailyFT