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October 20, 1999
Time is money. Especially when you are online.
For students who usually have complaining dads footing their online bills, Dishnet's latest Internet access package is a dream come true.
That is 1,825 hours for Rs 4,000! Or an unbelievably low price of less than Rs 2.50 per hour.
Branded as 'Bingo', the 'Big Internet Gain Offer', the scheme is close-ended and students can sign up not later than November 10.
Pune based Dishnet Limited is a 100 per cent subsidiary of the Sterling Group of Companies. It provides Internet service in Pune and Madras under the ETH or 'Education to Home' brand.
The subscribers of Bingo, during the inaugural festival offer, will win a free specially packed two-CD set of the Simon and Schuster New Millennium Encyclopaedia, 1999 edition. The set is worth Rs 2,250.
Pradeep Phade, head, marketing and customer care, cautions that students would have to utilise their daily one hour regularly because unutilised time cannot be accumulated over subsequent days.
Extra usage of over one hour would be billed at the rate of Rs 12 per hour.
This is the second offer targeted specially at the student community. In August, the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, the government owned ISP giant, announced a TCP/IP package at a subsidised rate.
VSNL offers students 100 hours of online time for Rs 1,075 but only for first-time subscribers.
Among dial-up subscribers, the student community forms a very attractive chunk for Internet service providers. A recent survey of Net savvy students showed that 47 per cent of the student population polled surfed anywhere between one and three hours daily. Thirteen per cent of the Net enthusiasts are online for over three hours a day.
The survey was conducted by campus magazine JAM.
With Bingo, Dishnet hopes to wean away from VSNL, the youth subscribers. These are, without doubt, the heaviest Internet users in the country.
However, Dishnet faces an uphill task here. Eighty-seven per cent of the youth users preferred VSNL to other ISPs. This includes the other government owned ISP, the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited.
Dishnet, however, has the price card to pull students away from VSNL. Unlike corporate customers, students are extremely price-sensitive.
Dishnet hopes their rock bottom price will reel in the Net users on the campuses. At an incredible price of Rs 4,000 for 1,825 hours, Dishnet's tariff beats VSNL's students package hollow. At VSNL's existing rate the same package would cost a whopping Rs 18,250! (VSNL's 100 online hours equal Rs 1,000 in the first-time concession package).
Bhatkar reveals Dishnet plans to have its own gateway when it reaches a subscriber base of around 100,000. He is optimistic the company will achieve the target sometime next year. The gateway, of course, would depend on the government's approval. Dishnet promises to invest around Rs 400 million in it.
The company has projected a turnover of around Rs 200 million by March 2000 and Rs 500 million in the next financial year.
It is another matter that despite such projections, the company's launch schedules have gone awry in the last few months. Dishnet has had to postpone the launch of its ISP services in Bombay three times.
It has also had to grapple with problems in Madras where misuse of one of its packages had forced it to shut down the service temporarily.
The package had offered dial-up subscribers one hour of free Internet access time daily for a certain prepaid amount of online time. The service was misused by cyber cafés and bulk subscribers, forcing Dishnet to temporarily suspend it.
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