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Shopaholics get to recharge their mobile phones for free

Mumbai: Being a shopaholic may not necessarily lighten the wallet as various new schemes in the Indian market are providing exclusive free recharging options to shoppers.

One of the country`s largest retailers, Future Group is offering free mobile phone talktime to its customers of Big Bazaar and Pantaloons while another start-up portal is giving away free retail coupons equal to the value of recharge done through their website.

Within few months of its launch, the unique convergence of retail and mobile telephone services, two of the businesses which have witnessed a boom in India, is catching up fast among the youth in the metros and the larger cities.

The T24 GSM mobile service, launched by the Future group in association with Tata Teleservices in June, now has around 350,000 subscribers in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Besides the traditional ways of buying a recharge, one can simply shop at the company`s retail chains like Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Pantaloons, EZone, Central, Home Town and Brand Factory to get free talktime.

For example, a shopping bill of more than Rs 1000 at Big Bazaar gives a free talktime of Rs 35.

"My ever-increasing shopping bill is now helping me reduce my mobile phone bill," says Meenakshi Naidu, a Hyderabad-based young housewife who bought a T24 mobile connection late last year.

Moreover, under the `Talk More, Shop More` scheme, one can even get discounts on goods bought from Future Group stores after buying a mobile phone recharge.

"Shopping and talking on our mobile phones are among the two favorite activities for all of us in India. With T24, we have been able to develop a unique customer value proposition that combines these interests of the aspirational Indians," says Future Group`s CEO (Telecom), Mayur Toshniwal.

On the other hand, at www.freerecharge.in, around 1.5 lakh netizens log in to recharge virtually for free from the website as their talktime charges are refunded in the form of free coupons from retailers and hang-out joints like McDonalds, Barista and PVR Cinemas.

"Besides talking to my girlfriend for longer duration, I can also take her out to a multiplex on weekends with the free coupons I get on recharging my phone. It serves me dual purpose as recharging is easier on the Internet and is also available 24×7," says 22-year-old college student Rocky Agarwal.

Launched in August last year, the first-of-its-kind business model has already acquired a patent pending status.

"The response has been overwhelming for us as our model is a win-win situation for mobile operators, retailers and users. With a spurt in the growth of the number of mobile and e-commerce subscribers in India, the online prepaid recharge market will also grow," the website`s founder Kunal Shah told PTI.

Already having the leading mobile phone operators, retailers and hang-out joints on board, they are now setting up long-term partnerships with restaurants, apparel and even grocery store chains.

"By the end of this April, we are hoping to have 25,000 transactions each day on our website," Saha said adding that they expect to start making profits by next year.

Similarly, Future Group plans a pan-India rollout of its T24 mobile services and taking its customer base to one million.

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