Indian Telecom vs Indian Cricket: Who wins?

How does our national game measure up to the country’s most talked about industry?

Mohammad Chowdhury
Published: 28, Dec 2012

Mohammad Chowdhury is PwC's Telecom, Media and Technology consulting leader across Australia, SE Asia and New Zealand. Until recently he built the practice in India where he became one of the most quoted industry experts in the country. Mohammad has served as an adviser to telecom sector reform in Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Slovakia, Poland and Slovenia and during 2015 as national telecommunications adviser to the Government of Myanmar. Previously in his career he has conducted significant strategic roles at Vodafone and IBM. He is quoted regularly by the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNBC, TV-18 and NDTV. Mohammad has worked in 83 countries, lived in 7 and speaks 6 languages. He has a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, an MPhil in Economics from Cambridge University, and strategy training from Harvard Business School. He was born in London, has family origins in Bangladesh, and is married with two sons.

It is time to draw stumps for 2012, so let’s take a pause from telecom talk and get down to a comparison meriting far more serious analysis: How does our national game measure up to the country’s most talked about industry? Here’s a First XI of issues to settle the score.

1. Speed: With Zaheer Khan in decline and 3G and 4G both set to grow, telecom has the edge on cricket when it comes to service delivery at quick pace.

Verdict: Telecom wins on speed, by a yard.

2.  Customer experience: Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen and Virat Kohli have created “moments of truth” through Twenty20 that any telecom chief marketing officer would die for.  Telco retail outlets and call centres do not offer the customer a level of excitement or engagement close to the weeks of customer frenzy the IPL boys whip up every spring.

Verdict: Over and out, Cricket wins. 

3.  Rural: Just like in telecom, the recent India vs England Test series reveals that the pace is in the Metros and it is positively pedestrian in the boondocks. Metropolitan Mumbai was the only wicket that was remotely speedy and by contrast the 22 yards at small-town Nagpur were about as quick as writing SMS without predictive text.

Verdict: When it comes to rural, cricket and telecom are both way behind service in the metros. Match drawn.

4.  Coverage: In an attempt to stop leaking boundaries, MS Dhoni could benefit from lessons in coverage planning from an Indian telecom network planner. This is a rare breed of genius, expert at blanketing coverage gaps with barely any resources. Telecom has got 95% of us covered in India, but our fielders have some way to go to match that.

Verdict: Telecom wins on field coverage, and over the air for that matter.

5. Top order vs Top-tier:  Equipped with the latest handsets and tablets, India’s top tier mobile user racks up a good 300 minutes and more megabytes of usage every month.  This is well ahead of how long Gambhir and Sehwag have managed to occupy the crease in recent times.

Verdict: Telecom wins. Time for India’s openers to try new tablets.

6.  Middle order vs mid-tier:Unlike the mid-tier telecom user who has multiple SIM cards to switch operators day to day, churn levels are pretty low in India’s cricketing middle order. Laxman, Ganguly, Dravid and Tendulkar have loyally graced the team for the best part of two decades.

Verdict: Maybe telcos can “cap” their favourite customers to stop them from switching.For retention ability, Cricket wins.  

7. Runs per over vs ARPU: With relentless intensity, Test and T20 formats are driving higher and higher runs per over. Thanks to Gilchrist and Sehwag, the days of 2.5 RPO in a Test match are all but history, and the figures now approach 4.0. Meanwhile, average revenue per user has been charting a continuous decline. If telcos could index-link ARPU to RPO, worries about revenue growth would become a thing of the past.

Verdict: Numbers don’t lie: Cricket wins.

8. Captain vs CEO:You can usually rely on Captain Cool to do the job for India, but he’s no match for India’s telecom CEO, who runs a complex business coupled with the daily overhang of a regulatory surprise or two that could cost billions of dollars.

Verdict: The keeper’s gloves are off. Telecom wins.

9. Run outs: In telecom, if you run out of credit, there’s never a kiosk far away where you can top up and carry on, whereas in cricket you are on your way back to the pavilion!

Verdict: The umpire’s finger is raised, and cricket is out!  Telecom wins.

10. Analytics: Could a telco’s customer segmentation model work out that Alastair Cook has averaged 65.62 with the bat since the beginning of the last Ashes series?  Sure it could, and some more too. Cricket boasts a deep and rather troubling segment of analytical hacks who will quote statistics to you from the Timeless Test of Durban in 1929, but a telco’s analytics engine should beat Wisden’s scorebook, any day.

Verdict: Following extensive analysis, telecom wins!

11. Bouncers vs bill shock: They both hurt, but which is worse: Chin music from Umesh Yadav & Co (or more like shin music, if we’re talking Nagpur wickets) or bill shock after an overseas holiday when you forgot to switch off data on your iPhone? Bouncers can you give you a bruising that will last a few days, but the pain of a Rs 50,000 bill scars some for life!

Verdict: Bruises are temporary, but bill shock can be permanent. Telecom, you lose!

12.   BCCI vs TRAI: Now that’s a 12th Man showdown whose result nobody could predict!

Verdict: No third umpire and no DRS.  Match abandoned

Result: Cricket 4, Telecom 6, No result 2. Telecom wins!

What’s in your Issues XI?

Happy New Year!

  • The Telecom User V/S The Cricketer: Who Performs Better? | Forbes India Blog

    [...] rather be a cricket correspondent than a telecom expert, and so, in line with 2012’s year-end blog, humour me again by reading what I have to say about who does better – the Cricketer or the [...]

    on Dec 30, 2013
  • Sunder Iyer

    Zor ka jhatka dheeray say! Good one focussing on real issues. Subtle and funny.

    on Jan 2, 2013
  • Harshit Srivastava

    We don't have a national game according to a RTI answered by Sports Ministry.

    on Dec 29, 2012
  • gg

    quite silly, surprising this made it through Forbes edit...

    on Dec 28, 2012
    • Mohammad Chowdhury

      A bit of fun, but not really that silly... Just have another look - there are some hard messages in there for the executives that run our telecoms industry.... :)

      on Dec 30, 2012
  • Sandeep

    In coverage Cricket wins.Been to a tribal area once,no signal coverage but kids playing cricket with teak sticks as wickets !

    on Dec 28, 2012
    • Mohammad Chowdhury

      Great point - cricket's penetration is really so much deeper than the network. Thanks!

      on Dec 30, 2012
  • Shravan Bhat

    One of the funniest and best executed blog ideas in ages. Had me in splits!

    on Dec 28, 2012
    • Mohammad Chowdhury

      Thank you - I am contemplating some further analysis on the topic. Let's see what we can dig up.

      on Dec 30, 2012
  • Rohit Gattani

    Cricket is not our national game...

    on Dec 28, 2012
Wrong Number: Why Telecom's Subscriber Base is Dropping
We are wasting enough food to feed Kenya for a year