Watch out! Jazz is bringing its digital telco ‘Rox’ out to play

Months after Ufone introduced Onic to Pakistan, Jazz is gearing up to give them a competitor

“Vibe-hai”. That is the ambiguous-enough-to-intrigue but not-so-ambiguous-as-to-disenchant tagline Jazz has chosen for its new sub-brand by the name of Rox. The new brand promises to give its users a seamless digital lifestyle. But what exactly does that mean? 

What is the vibe? What does vibe even mean? 

Profit spoke to Jazz and they confirmed that Rox was the company’s attempt at launching a digital brand. The market that Jazz is walking into is at a very interesting stage. On the one hand, the idea of a digital telco is relatively new in Pakistan. On the other they will not have a first-mover advantage since that was already taken by Onic — Ufone’s digital telco brand launched just a few months ago. But Jazz must have thought of something, right? After all, when the country’s biggest telecom network comes up with a product, it means that they mean business. 

The only question is, how will Pakistan’s biggest telco fare as the second entrant into a still new market that customers aren’t familiar with? And let’s actually begin by starting off with that question. What in the world is a ‘digital telco’ company supposed to be in the first place? 

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

The relationship between customer and telecommunications network is changing. There was a time all around the world when people choosing their phone carrier would base it off a few factors. What network were their friends and family using? Which network was most reliable and had the best signals in their area? Which one was offering the best rates? It was a simple equation. A telco would provide good services at a good rate and it would gain a customer. 

It is still somewhat that way in Pakistan. Except the winds of change seem to be rising in the sails. Understanding what the term ‘digital telcos’ means is a bit of a tough task because there is no one definition in particular. But very simply (and broadly) put a digital telco is when a telecom brand co-opts digital solutions to stay ahead of the curve in a business that has lost some of its lustre. 

For all intents and purposes telcos have been forced to go digital. Over the past decades the telecommunications sector has seen its fortunes dwindle. What was once the hottest business of the 1990s has become close to obsolete. The concept of SMSs and voice messages, once the highest sources of revenue for these companies, have been replaced by messaging services. One might imagine that they have since shifted to making money from mobile data and broadband, but the profit margins on mobile data continue to narrow on the back of downward price pressures and competition. A simple example of this is that just like a consumer would take a mere second to jump onto a whatsapp call if the cost of the voice call goes beyond a certain margin, they would jump to WiFi if their “mobile data” is expensive or slow.

It is a problem well illustrated in the Pakistani market. As of October 2023, average revenue per user for a telco in Pakistan came to $0.8/month. Meaning that every individual who uses a mobile phone in Pakistan provides less than a dollar in revenue to their telecom company, what they give them in Profit, is of course lower.

As a result, there aren’t really any new telcos lining up for licences. Instead, the existing players in the market are trying to find digital answers to the existential questions they face.  Rather than fighting the digital world, they started embracing digital businesses as a saving grace. This meant that they would indulge into a wide variety of digital businesses.These businesses range from things that were entirely in a telco’s domain to things that… just got the cash rolling. And that is essentially what a digital telco is. 

Digital telcos often bundle telecom services with other digital offerings, such as streaming content, cloud storage, or smart home services etc. Other than that, digital telcos around the world sometimes employ data analytics, automation and AI to make agile operations, improving and automating the user experience. So where you’d spend hours to get a response on your email, a digital chatbot will solve your query right away with its integrated manual. These brands also tend to make use of up and coming technologies like 5G computing and network slicing. These technologies upgrade their services and take them a notch above the traditional telco. This falls in line with improving the technology on the back of which their voice and data services would also flourish.

Meeting the competition halfway

The first signs in Pakistan came through Onic. Back in September 2023, Profit reported in a detailed feature how Ufone, a company that had seen a drought of profits, was trying to turn things around through a new brand they were billing as a digital telco called Onic. It was an attempt to resuscitate and some felt it came at a time when Ufone should have been pleading for a DNR.  

The picture has since changed quite a bit. Onic, right now, is not only the first digital telecom brand of Pakistan but after Telenor’s sale to Ufone, it also becomes the flagship digital telecom brand of Pakistan, backed by an endless balance sheet of global giant e&, and sitting on the biggest telecom infrastructure in the country.

The market clearly called for competition. And being the market leader, the biggest player by far and the most astute one, Jazz had to answer. Rox will now be going head-to-head with Onic in this fledgling market.  

Offering a fully digital journey, ROX is a digital lifestyle brand that allows users to seamlessly manage their connectivity and rewards. It has partnered with leading lifestyle brands like foodpanda, Careem, Bookme, and Golootlo to offer users exciting, exclusive deals and discounts,” the company’s spokesperson told Profit in a written statement. 

So how does Jazz plan on using Rox to trounce Onic? As we’ve mentioned already, there is an advntage to being a first-mover in any business. And while breaking into the business becomes harder for a new entrant, there are some advantages too. For starters, you can learn from the mistakes of your competitors. Taking what works and fixing what doesn’t work is a technique that will win you customers. And when the second entrant has the resources that Jazz does, the competition gets hot fast. 

Making the best use of its second mover’s advantage, Rox has everything that Onic or PTML lacked to be a good digital telco, as pointed out by Profit’s earlier piece.But as we’ve mentioned earlier, it can be difficult to define what a digital telco is. Onic’s definition might vary from Rox. So what exactly is Jazz’s take on a digital telco going to look like? 

A “Lifestyle sub-brand”

What makes a good digital telco, does Rox fit the bill and how will they square up against the competition. That is the crux of the matter. To understand how Jazz has chosen what Rox is, we need to first understand what a digital telecom operator is.

Any brand can be a lifestyle brand. Lifestyle branding, in its essence, is a marketing strategy. Any brand that embodies a certain way of life, and can then offer services or merely an autopia of that way of life is called a lifestyle brand. As an example, Apple is a lifestyle brand for smart gadgets.

When asked, the company representative told Profit that in this case Rox is considered a lifestyle sub-brand because it is “tailored to serve as the all-encompassing lifestyle partner of the nation’s digital-first generation.”

As Gen-Z prefers convenience and has certain numbers of needs, the app and the bundles cater to all those needs. Partnering up with top-of-the-market external ride hailing, delivery, and booking companies, Rox’s bundles come with convenient offers for all these services. Besides it has in-app subscription to Jazz’s top apps like Tamasha — country’s larg­est homegrown digital enter­tainment platform, Bajao — a leading digital music stream­ing service in Pakistan, and GameNow — a revolutionary gaming platform, elevating their digital experience. 

One thing that is however a defining feature of Rox is a SIM card. A SIM card that would lead you to subscribe to different voice and data bundles that come with added benefits. This automatically leads us back to our earlier definition of what a digital telco is. These defining features make Rox effectively the biggest and most innovative digital telco of Pakistan.

What does Rox offer?

This takes us back to why Rox is doing more than its competition. The position taken in Profit’s earlier article was that there is not enough that Onic offers in terms of services to be characterised as a good digital telco. In Fact anything that Onic offered, other conventional telcos were already offering or were offering better, despite being non-digital. 

As mentioned above, a digital telco clumps together a host of services, not just for convenience but also as a perk. 

Before coming to the voice and internet bundles, here are the additional things that Rox has to offer. An in app subscription of the Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) versions of Tamasha and Bajao, Jazz’s premium OTT and Audio streaming platforms, both of which not only offer entertainment, but quality entertainment such that they have made a name for themselves in a very short span of time. 

Apart from this all the bundles of Rox come with a free subscription of Panda Pro, a version of delivery giant foodpanda which offers free food deliveries and discounts. Similarly it comes with Pro or gold subscriptions of Bookme, a booking platform and Golootlo, a discount aggregator company. Rox subscription also offers Rs 200 off on Careem, Pakistan’s premiere ride-hailing app.

In voice and data, Rox offers three plans, the basic, crazy and insane vibe. The basic one constitutes 25GB data and 2000 all-net minutes. The crazy and insane bundles offer 75 and 200 GB data, and 2500 and 5000 minutes respectively. The price tags for basic, crazy and insane bundles are Rs 1500, Rs 1800 and Rs 2100 respectively.

Individually, all the external and internal features, calculated separately, cost upwards of Rs 800. Provided that these features cost Jazz marginally less owing to mutual deals, this makes the voice and data bundles that Rox offers, nothing to write home about in terms of price. With other brands offering cheaper data and calls at comparable and lesser prices, convenience, simplicity and transparency are the USPs of Rox’s user experience.

The Launch-Strategy and Target Market

When a sentence has the words “vibe”, “Roxtar” and others, there is only one market that it aims to appeal to. And these digital brands seem to be going after that market only. That market is the Gen-Z. The Gen-Z, as many already know, is not just an age group. It is an urban demographic that belongs to the upper and upper-middle social strata of cities and have come off age recently.

This is the first generation that identifies itself with the digital age. According to PTA, 77% of smartphone users in Pakistan are between the ages of 21-30. This technologically literate, TikTok and Instagram addicted generation has the internet down there with water and oxygen in their Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The use of words in the ad campaign is just one element. The bold colours, flashy webpages and anti-design elements all exude a novelty that Rox associates itself with. Rox has made sure that its campaign also remains native to the internet. Just a month before the launch, it had the people guessing what the “Vibe” was. The marketing post-launch however has not only been subdued but also confusing.

“In Pakistan, with 64% of the population under the age of 30, there is a significant demand for digital-first experiences. ROX delivers a combination of content and services to engage the digital-first generation of the country. With Jazz’s wide portfolio of digital services and experience in providing a seamless digital experience to our customers, and with the learnings in our Group based on the success of other digital-first brands, we are confident that we are uniquely positioned to meet this demand.” explains Kaan Terzioglu, CEO of VEON Group. 

VEON’s Strategy

Jazz Pakistan (Formerly Mobilink) is owned by an international tech giant VEON. The company, headquartered in the Netherlands is one of the most successful companies operating in the space. Targeting almost 7% of the entire world’s population with its various telecom brands, VEON provides its services to more than 150 million customers worldwide.

The digital operator received GSMA’s Global Mobile Award for Best Mobile Operator Service for Connected Consumers with its Digital Operator 1440 model – DO1440, at the Mobile World Congress 2023.

In the Digital Operator 1440 model, Veon Group companies combine mobile connectivity with a complete digital product portfolio that suits local needs and services. This includes mobile financial services, entertainment, health, education and others. Veon said this model has led to greater engagement and value generation among Veon’s customers.

The launch of ROX is part of VEON’s digital operator strategy, or DO1440, and builds on the company’s success in pioneering other digital-first brands – IZI in Kazakhstan and OQ in Uzbekistan. 

IZI, VEON’s first digital-first operator, has over 500 thousand monthly active users (MAUs). In Uzbekistan, the OQ was launched in October 2023 and had already gained 177 thousand MAUs by December 31st. 

Conclusion

As of now Rox has made its impact as a digital-first telecom brand. But as past examples suggest, remaining ahead of competition is always the key to not just excel but also survive in the telco market. The ball is now in the competition’s court. Will ChinaMobile launch its first digital telecom in Pakistan, and bring its 5G-based “Cloud Phone” technology to rival the others?

Would Onic onboard external partners, to increase its service provision? Because for every bookme.pk, there is a Bookkaru, for every Careem there is an InDrive and for every Golootlo, there is Vouch365. 

When it comes to technology, Jazz has always remained ahead of the curve, compared to the competition. It is therefore important to see how Jazz’s Rox performs over time, to maintain the same stature in the market. “ROX is available nationwide at all experience centres. We are planning nationwide new availability hotspots as well.”, stated the Rox spokesperson.

Shahnawaz Ali
Shahnawaz Ali
The author is a Business and Finance journalist at Profit and can be reached via email at [email protected] and via twitter @shahnawaz_ali1

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