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The mobile markets in many developing regions are primarily prepaid; in fact, around 99% of the mobile markets in Africa consists of prepaid subscribers. Within these regions, the most traditional means of distribution for airtime recharge for the prepaid subscribers is scratch cards.
Given the upward growth trend for prepaid mobile subscribers, telecom companies across the world are grappling to come up with new and innovative mobile-oriented solutions to stay ahead of the game. It is imperative for them to develop proactive customer acquisition and retention strategies for their prepaid market to accelerate growth and strengthen customer relationships.

Existing challenges for telcos

From an operational standpoint, telecom operators need to reduce their costs when it comes to the production and delivery of products such as airtime scratch cards. The production of these cards entails printing, packaging, and distribution of airtime scratch cards to different resellers and distributors who sell them to the subscribers.

Not only is the production and distribution of airtime scratch cards time-consuming and costly, but it also requires a lot of human resources to control and manage the end-to-end process. This is especially a challenge for telcos in the hyper-competitive markets, as they are seeking new ways to cut down their costs while acquiring and retaining new subscribers. By sticking to the conventional scratch card system, the telecom operators and resellers are at the risk of losing the opportunity to offer value-added services. Scratch cards not only tend to have a prolonged time to market but they also do not provide the facility of increased visibility into the distribution chain and comprehensive reporting features to the telecom operators.

eTopup as a solution

Electronic recharge (eTopup) and digital airtime credit platforms are sustainable solutions for telecom companies that not only enhance customer experience but also reduce costs significantly. eTopup is essentially an end-to-end solution that enables the service providers to offer any value recharge to subscribers at any time. The underlying purpose of this platform – which is capable of carrying out billions of transactions annually – is to provide unparalleled services to the telecom operators to manage all their supply chain and distribution needs digitally.

To combat the persisting challenges and to bank on the emerging growth opportunities, telecom operators have made significant efforts to digitize the airtime credit process. eTopup is not only the more efficient way to recharge prepaid accounts but it is also better suited to handle the real-time distribution through multiple channels, including, USSD, app interface, SMS, etc. Additionally, it also allows telecom companies to establish, manage, and maintain a consolidated network of electronic payments and distribution systems.

Benefits of eTopup or Electronic Value Distribution 

As compared to traditional means of mobile recharge like scratch cards, electronic recharge solution is secure, highly cost-effective, and well-integrated to access channels to ensure readily available recharge to end subscribers. It also contains reporting mechanisms with versatile support for channels and channel management. Given the reluctance of some subscribers regarding the shift to an electronic channel, the eTopup system also has the flexibility to mimic the behavior of scratch cards in a more efficient manner. It is capable of generating a voucher on demand that can be printed and redeemed at a later stage. 

Benefits to telecom operators:

  • Cut down logistical, distribution and management costs significantly
  • Improve and incentivize reseller distribution network
  • Increase real-time visibility and control over the digital platform
  • User-friendly and instantaneous process
  • Enhance control over the whole distribution chain
  • Multiple access points available 24/7

The adoption of the eTopup system not only reduces the distribution cost, but also makes it easier to manage the distribution hierarchy, and eliminates any chance of fraud. The flexible nature of the eTopup system allows the telecom operators’ control over the entire distribution network and enables them to add or set up the reseller rights and roles along with functionalities.

Through the reseller management module that is an essential part of eTopup, telecom operators offer full back-office support to resellers and create a multi hierarchy dealer-reseller (several levels) network with varying geographical responsibilities. This consequently leads to an efficient and organized distribution chain that is aligned to the overall objectives of the company.

Key features of eTopup

Telecom operators enable digital distribution to end users by creating a network of resellers, who are equipped with multiple channel options (SMS, USSD, web, or smartphone application) to perform eTopup transactions in real-time. In terms of incentive management, the bonuses and commissions can be transferred to resellers in real-time according to the margin rules. These rules can also be customized to suit the varying needs of the telcos or the resellers. Through electronic airtime recharge, the telecom operator has the opportunity to introduce value-added services for the convenience of the reseller and the subscriber. Moreover, the various products and services offered by the telecom company can easily and effectively be managed and classified into various groups and product ranges. The eTopup platform also incorporates business intelligence which helps in generating comprehensive and interactive reports. This subsequently facilitates the telcos in better decision making and performance measurement. 

Future outlook for telecom operators

In a digital world where the customers have everything at their fingertips, enhanced customer experience is the key differentiating factor for telecom operators in order to gain a competitive advantage. This means that customer convenience and satisfaction takes precedence over everything else. To cater to customer demands, it is essential that products and services such as airtime credit are easily accessible to subscribers through their preferred channels. However, this needs to be done in a timely and cost-effective manner so that it is beneficial for not only the subscribers but also for the operator and the resellers. For consistent growth, telecom companies can evolve beyond their traditional airtime credit services and tap into new revenue streams. They have the opportunity to leap from airtime credit provision to more sophisticated digital transactions and mobile payments. 

Head over to our guide to read about how telecom operators can stay competitive in the digital distribution space and accelerate go-to-market time. 

Author Mahwish Ilyas

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