Business Standard (July 20, 2005) reports on BSNL's move to get students to sell its broadband connections.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) has introduced a new scheme whereby students will install and sell broadband connections. A commission of Rs 100 shall be paid to the student by sub-divisional engineer (SDE) in charge of broadband, after receiving a satisfactory report from the final user.
D K Agrawal, principal general manager, BSNL, Gujarat circle, said: "Engineering students, school and college students or any one who has passed the class 10 can sell and install these broadband connections." Students will get the broadband form filled by the customers with the initial amount, that includes registration and security, and submit it to BSNL. Any student willing to do installation can go with lineman and configure customer premises equipment (CPE) and install the necessary software. He will have to test the connection and demonstrate the working of broadband to customer, added Agrawal.
On registration with advance rental and security deposit, a commission of Rs 50 is paid and on installation of connection a commission of Rs 25 is provided to the student. On receiving 1st paid bill, additional bonus of Rs 25 will be paid. Students willing to do installation of broadband connections will be trained free of cost by the supplier or BSNL.
When asked about targets, Agrawal said that for installation of broadband connection, at least two installations per day is mandatory and for sale of broadband connection, at least 25 new broadband connections per month are a must. The registration will be cancelled if the students fail to achieve this target. There will be a bi-monthly progress review, he added.
This seems to be an excellent idea to experiment with. The biggest challenges for BSNL will be in training and managing a diverse body of students and ensuring the quality of service provided by the students, especially when they won't be employees. The report claims the student will go with the lineman to install the software - BSNL's linemen themselves are no paragons of quality. Poor quality of service can affect the brand, but BSNL probably doesn't care as much about its brand, as other private telecom providers, which is why it is even willing to experiment. No private provider would have considered such an idea.
In an earlier post, I had looked at the possibility of tapping school and college students to create local information service businesses. I think there's a lot of potential for businesses to tap into the student segment and benefit not just in terms of access to low(or no) cost resources, but also in terms of brand as well, if they are able to carry it off well. Kinko's in the U.S. have been successful in getting high school students to run a Kinko's store (they do it as part of their curriculum without getting paid).
The store is part of the curriculum offered by the Global Business and Information Technology Academy within Southfield High. Students in business classes are assigned to work at the store, handling all areas of operation from marketing to management. The store provides office products such as business cards and services such as copying and flier production to its clientele. The equipment to establish the store is sold by Kinko's to the school district at cost, and all profits from the store are redirected into store operations and a scholarship program for seniors in the Academy. The school saves money on equipment, receives higher quality services and products, and the profits return to the school and students rather than to a vendor.
Tina Richmond, the Kinko's liaison for Southfield High, explained that the Southfield program is a way for the company to advertise its name, while providing great service and educational opportunities to the school district and its students.
It will be interesting to see how BSNL's experiment shapes up.