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How Hathway Connect will benefit LCOs

By TS Panesar

T-S-Panesar-insideThe Indian cable TV industry is moving towards complete digitisation. Considering the changed environment, it is important for us at Hathway Cable & Datacom to ensure that our entire cable TV distribution chain is technologically oriented and upgraded to keep up with the current trends. We want our local cable operator (LCO) partners to be empowered by technology to grow further and keep pace with the demands of the consumers. The overall objective is to offer a value proposition to the customers and give them the best-in-class experience.

So, what is the idea behind Hathway Connect and why did we launch it? How are cable operators going to be impacted by it?

The cable TV distribution chain still works heavily on a B2B model with about 90% of the business happening through the LCO. Until now, there has been no real initiative to strengthen the LCOs’ business, provide them with tools to bring a change in operations and improve customer service. Hathway Connect is a breakthrough approach where we are building technology through a dedicated portal to give the LCO a window to compete with the consumer-driven DTH business. It’s time we recognised the role of the LCO in the cable value chain. The country’s geography is vast and it’s through the LCO that customers get access to all the entertainment and information on TV.

We cannot deny this reality and, therefore, as a responsible market leader, we have taken the mantle of upgrading and enhancing the LCO as an entity and providing him full access to control his business through technology. We are confident that it will have a positive impact on the LCOs as well as the customers, and prove to be a game changer in the cable industry.

Now let me explain the key aspects of Hathway Connect. More than just a portal, Hathway Connect is a transformational initiative—a detailed foray to empower our LCO partners and the overall business through technology. With this dedicated portal, the LCO will have a host of power features that will make his life easy and convenient.

Some of the key aspects that the portal offers to the LCO are online activation of new customers (E-CAF), package management, account balance management including integration with BillDesk, customer prepaid option, sending customised notifications to subscribers, specialised LCO helpdesk, self-care through mobile app, which will help them to upgrade operations, create efficient and seamless processes, aid in effective monitoring, improve customer service, and build a more robust business down the line.

Sitting in his office, the LCO can now control his operations with just a click, manage his entire customer base with utmost ease, thus reducing operational costs. The E-KYC is TRAI’s technology mandate, and Hathway is the first MSO to comply and launch it to store consumer data digitally. Further, the LCO can handle his customers with all possible data points, tools, incentives and communication, enhancing the standard of services to customers.

What role will the LCO play in the digital scheme of things? Since the advent of cable TV in India, the LCO has been the driving force in building the industry brick by brick over the past decade and a half. LCOs connect the length and breadth of the country in a way that even DTH cannot match. The LCO’s interaction with consumers on a one-to-one level and the personal experience he offers goes a long way, which makes him the heart of our business.

Despite several questions raised on the existence of the LCO after digitisation and his diminishing role in the future, he continues to be that vital cog for MSOs in covering the wide geography of the country and would be even more critical in DAS III and IV implementation, which would cover the interiors and heartland of India. The LCO will continue to exist and grow, and our endeavour is to support and strengthen him with technology.

We are promoting Hathway Connect in a big way across our LCO partners. A dedicated portal has been developed and aesthetically designed in sync with our corporate brand look with enhanced features available for usage. We are doing orientation sessions and welcome initiatives for the LCOs to introduce the programme to them in the most effective manner.

In addition, training sessions on the portal and various features are being conducted on one-to-one basis. We launched Hathway Connect in Bangalore on 28 January amid a gathering of top LCOs and the portal went live on 1 February. Going forward, we are planning to roll out Hathway Connect in Western India on 1 April, followed by rest of the regions, to make a pan-India impact.

The LCO is ready for this change. There is no other option than to embrace technology and adopt it in the best possible manner. The environment around us is changing rapidly and becoming competitive. Cable has been in existence since the last decade and a half. Today, DTH poses a challenge mainly due to their cutting-edge technology and superior customer service. However, cable with its vast geographical strength and connect with the last mile has a big advantage, which is still not explored to the fullest.

The LCO has to realise his strength and we as pioneers in the business have taken this step to change their mindset, approach and give them the solution to become more competitive. Let’s not forget that consumer demands are increasing; consumers are more informed and smart, and technology and quality has to be top notch. If we need to be competitive and grow, change is required. We, at Hathway, have transformed our business significantly over the past couple of years, which has taken us ahead of competition. It’s time for our LCO partners to upgrade and change to strengthen themselves.

We reach over 12 million cable subscribers with a digital base of over 9.6 million and 3 million broadband homes passed. Our business has evolved manifold and the steps we have taken in the last one year have clearly taken us notches ahead of competition, be it initiatives for implementing DAS, packaging foray and now Hathway Connect.

Cable TV has the potential to grow profitably, provided the industry upgrades with technology to make processes and operations easy and convenient. We have always taken risks and introduced new steps to grow the revenue pie; Hathway Connect is a big step in that direction.

Today, the LCO is our biggest asset and if we can transform him, there is a robust business ahead of us and we see ARPU growing by at least 30%.

(TS Panesar is Hathway Cable & Datacom president of video business)