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CIO Review >> Magazine >> September - 2013 issue

Plintron: Envisioning to be the Largest Mobile Virtual Network Globally


Eighteen years back, the first cellular call was made in India and today we stand at around 920 million mobile subscriptions. This advancement is courtesy the sprouting MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) which have blurred the lines between it and MNO (Mobile Network Operator). The MVNO market kicked off way back in 1990-91, when a number of players rented capacity on the networks of existing MNOs. The very first MVNOs replicated almost everything from MNOs – establishing shops, subsidizing terminals and then marketing themselves as operator in their local market. However, the success came across owing to keeping the debt and costs low by having staff that understood the end-to-end process of mobile service delivery and worked closely with highly experienced partners. Only the larger and stronger MVNO models are robust enough to justify the significant infrastructure investment of MVNO. As the MVNO market continues to expand, a new category of players, MVNEs - Mobile Virtual Network Enablers – emerged, riding on the coattails of strong MVNO growth. MVNE provides business infrastructure solutions and services including billing, administration, operations, business support systems, operations support systems and provisioning for back-end network elements to MVNO.

Leveraging on this trend and as a trend-setter, Mohan Kumar Sundaram founded Plintron. Established in 2008, Plintron is a niche player in the wireless mobile and virtual networks space and is one of the largest telecom hosted cloud-based infrastructure for MNOs, MVNOs and enterprises. The company's lines of businesses includes MVNE (Mobile Virtual Network Enabler), MVNA (Mobile Virtual Network Aggregator), M2M, Mobile Wallet and Money Cards providing converging voice, data and video across the U.S, UK, Europe and Australia.

"Everything is initiated by an opportunity. When we started working on the MVNO industry around a decade back, we saw several businesses failing sporadically due to major cost factor, sales and distribution, and lack of having the right communication technology to support the customers' products in the market. Only one out of every five MVNOs were successful in the long run and to achieve this success they needed a core differentiator in the market aided by a product, service, cost or reach. We found a huge gap between the demand and supply chain. Today we are the best medicine for all these pain points of MVNOs," says a proud Mohan Kumar.

However, getting there required lot of foresight and perseverance from Mohan. Born and bought up in Chennai, he took his time to venture into the Enterprise Mobile Convergence (EMC) space. His diverse roles in different companies globally helped him gain insight over various aspects of being an entrepreneur. Be it working for large corporate houses or start-ups, the experience that Mohan gained taught him the basics of running massive distributed business operations from the scratch and also address new and emerging markets where innovative technology can be the game changer. Finding this gap in the form of Enterprise Mobile Networks, Mohan scripted Plintron to make it the world's largest multi-country cloud-based telecom infrastructure for MNOs, MVNOs and Enterprises.

The Industry's Catalyst

In this era of globalization, MVNOs are creating a global presence and making use of virtualization and cloud to offer their services without requiring much infrastructure, licensing, spectrum and large investments. Playing the role of a catalyst since past five years, Plintron is enabling entrepreneurs and brands to launch mobile services the cloud way across multiple countries on a hosted environment. This not only helps MVNOs have a cost arbitrage advantage, but also allows them to focus on customer service and loyalty, product enhancement, brand awareness and marketing.

Though MVNEs help MVNOs overcome various challenges, most MVNEs themselves face the major challenge of cost structure if they are not indigenous. Majority of MVNEs, bring solutions from different partners and technology providers, and they have a huge challenge of maintaining and integrating these technology providers to provide a one shop MVNE solution towards an MVNO or MNO that comes with the high price of time and money usually leading to viability hurdles to the business. However, Plintron is addressing the market and its demands through its end-to-end solutions. Its solutions are largely indigenous and developed in-house as per international standards. The company has its own R&D infrastructure and with its offshore offerings, there is smooth integration and seamless running of technology, that helps customers save on time and cost. Around 95 percent of the operations, development and support are from India, for global markets including U.S. and European markets providing the MVNOs the leverage to have lower cost structure and time to market.

Offering Versatility

While major MVNE providers offer either services or infrastructure platform and not offer end-to-end managed services for both technical and business operations, Plintron has an edge over its peers with its offering of end-to-end managed service, virtual infrastructure and value added products and solutions. With its 18 country footprint and experience and knowledge of regulatory compliances, and customer patterns, Plintron has established itself as a premier MVNE solution provider. Plintron also facilitates operations and regulatory numbering in few countries through its MVNO partnerships, helping new MVNO brands to quickly launch without worrying about anything other than end-customer service and satisfaction.

Adhering to its philosophy of providing innovative technology, Plintron has extended its offering to Financial services like Mobile Wallet and Money Cards too. Through Mobile Wallet, Plintron is trying to bridge the gap and bring banking facilities under the consumer's thumb, enabling payments at POS terminals, linking multiple prepaid, credit and debit cards into the phone for payments while providing enhanced security. The Money Cards are the prepaid cards that allow users to transfer money from one card to any other reloadable card. The company provides a platform and serves as the integrator for the charging system and money services solution helping the mobile network operators in terms of customer loyalty. Mohan adds, "Security is not a luxury or an add-on. It is in our DNA when it comes to Digital Money or Mobile Wallet and customers' confidential data. Being in European and Western markets, we have experienced and matured in this process of privacy".

The use of mobile phones for credit or cash transfer by family members is gaining popularity among the people in India, as it is in the world over. In certain places of the country, apart from the formal banking system, the informal money transfer system is also gaining popularity through the usage of mobile phones. In certain rural places, only a few people hold formal bank accounts, which is why they largely depend on the informal credit system, under which they transfer and deposit money by using their mobile phones. Talking about this opportunity that India beholds, Mohan foresees a bright future for MVNE, Mobile Wallet and Digital Money and plans to bring a specialization in communication services for the hosted market.

Crossing the Borders

Headquartered in Chennai, Plintron operates in over 18 countries, spanning across Europe, UK, U.S., and Australia, making it important for the company to keep itself updated with the local markets, regulatory compliances and legal counsels. However, entering into new borders has its own set of challenges like legal compliances and other allied challenges. To address this, Mohan says, "It is very important to be a part of all the regulatory groups, forums, committees in the various countries and be a part of those groups so that we are an element of the decision making".

Today, Plintron is working with some new global partners and has business partnerships in more than 55 countries. Understanding that data and devices are the future of technology, Plintron is preparing for this data deluge. The company envisions being the largest virtual network provider and enabling the smart devices in the coming era keeping the identity single but with multiple channels by having single virtualized account. Infusing excellence, quality focus, innovation, honoring credibility and being customer centric in its DNA, Plintron has set itself on a mission to create an epic in the history of wireless mobile technology and virtual network space.