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Distributers, retailers hit hard as few takers for Aircel sim cards

ET spoke to Aircel distributors across telecom circles, who said they were still awaiting the management to spell out its next course of action.

Mar 01, 2018, 08.10 AM IST
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Agencies
Aircel
The sales head of one of its major metro distributors said only 60% of Aircel’s cell sites were working, but they were waiting to be told what the next step would be.
Aircel’s struggles have hit its distributors and retailers, who have spent lakhs of rupees on the telecom company’s SIM cards for which there are few takers now.

ET spoke to Aircel distributors across telecom circles, who said they were still awaiting the management to spell out its next course of action, even as customers in thousands are shifting their accounts to other operators every day.

On Wednesday, the company said it failed to reach a consensus with lenders and shareholders, and filed for bankruptcy.

“From 800 SIM cards (a month until) a few months ago, I have been able to sell only 250-300 SIM cards in January,” said an Aircel distributor in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, who did not want to be named.

There is panic among distributors even as they await further communication from the operator amid network outages and customer exodus.

The drop in business in Tamil Nadu has dealt a big blow to the telecom company as the state accounted for nearly a fifth of the roughly 80 million customers it had at the end of January. There have also been lakhs of requests to port out of the network, after outages briefly stopped communication on Aircel last week.

In terms of value, according to a person aware of the Tamil Nadu business of Aircel, what was once a Rs 250-crore distribution business in December has got reduced to levels below Rs 100 crore a month. The distributor strength in the circle has shrunk to about 800 from 1,200 a few months ago.

The sales head of one of its major metro distributors said only 60% of Aircel’s cell sites were working, but they were waiting to be told what the next step would be.

“In these difficult times, the company seeks cooperation from all its stakeholders including the vendor fraternity and channel partners… The company requests continued services from the suppliers and partners for the ongoing business of the company,” Aircel said in a statement on Wednesday.

Siddique Rafique, an Aircel distributor for the last six years in the Mumbai circle, has about Rs 3 lakh worth SIM cards with him and another Rs 2 lakh with his few-hundred-odd retailers.

“I do not know if the company plans to shut shop. My deposit money of Rs 1 lakh is also with them. There is no communication from their side despite repeated calls and reminders,” said Rafique.

Another city-based distributor, Arshad Ghojarir who had put Rs 5 lakh in the company through SIM cards, wants the company to explain its position. “Mumbai circle was not shut, so why are we not being told what is happening,” said Ghojarir who has been an Aircel distributor for about two years.

“The company would like to communicate to all the customers that it would strive hard to provide uninterrupted service connectivity to them and appeals to them for their support during the current difficult period,” the telco said.

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