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Dabbawalas' to connect Airtel

Deal to deliver cards, new connections and bundled handsets

Mumbai :Mumbai's famed ``dabbawalas,'' who once shook hands with Britain's Prince Charles, are now embracing a new friend — telecom major Airtel.

The hands and feet of these highly-efficient deliverers of the city's lunch, will now also supply at doorsteps of households they visit, Airtel's pre-paid cards, new connections and bundled handsets.

``This is a one-of-a-kind initiative tapped by Airtel for deeper penetration in the market,'' Airtel CEO Manu Talwar told PTI. It has partnered with Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers, he said.

``The company is all set to leverage the large distribution network of `dabbawalas' to reach out to a larger consumer base.''

The `dabbawalas' have been chosen as they are "known for their honest, down-to-earth and gentlemanly nature,'' said Mr. Talwar. They have a reach of about two lakh household and 70 local stations.

If each `dabbawala' carries one and sells one they may end up adding four lakh new connections to Airtel's market cap.

Registration forms

The `dabbawalas' are expected to provide registration forms to the prospective customers in the morning when they collect the tiffin.

By evening on their return round they hope to collect filled up forms. Says Raghunath Megde, president of the trust, ``I suppose we have been chosen because of decades of trust we carry. It has now been a week into the programme. It is in the middle and lower income segment that we have made some headway. Richer people already have their own and are choosy about the handsets.''

Better coordination

"The cell phones that have been given to us free of cost is of great help. We can now communicate and coordinate better between ourselves and cater to emergencies,'' he said.

For Airtel the tie-up is a ``win-win'' deal.

``We will increase our customer base and `dabbawalas' can earn additional income or about Rs 250 for every new subscriber,'' Airtel officials said. — PTI
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