The Group Advantage
Shah Abidur Rahman
Students having unlimited fun. Photo:Shah Abidur Rahman
The university years is a time when friends need to stick together, and discuss endlessly about all the important and not so important issues of their lives and this invariably includes the extensive use of mobile phones. But long hours spent on the phone result in big bills, and this is not always an option for students.
Airtel's latest 'Dolbol' package focuses almost exclusively on university students, creating groups mostly based on particular educational institutions. Within each group, all the members may talk to each other at 29 paisa per minute. However, members belonging to different 'Dolbol' communities have to pay the standard rate when they communicate with each other.
Educational institutions are the likeliest place where friend circles are born. Accordingly, Dolbol is attractive to most students who primarily want to communicate with their fellow students from the same educational institute.
With over 15,000 members, the community of Dhaka University boasts the biggest 'Dolbol'. “Campus life is a time when friends keep in close touch with each other and of course the mobile phone helps maintain this liaison,” says Dulal, a student of political science at the University of Dhaka reflecting his experience with the Dolbol package that has allowed him vastly reduced calling rates. “This is especially true for those of us who have come from outside the city and stay in the residential halls. We do not have our family in Dhaka. Our friends become family. After the first year, everyone in the residential halls and the same departments know each other,” says Dulal. “I think in Dhaka University, the friend circles are bigger than most educational institutions.” As a result there are more people within the same community who can keep in touch with each other by subscribing to the University of Dhaka 'Dolbol'.
Some specific Dolbol communities have attracted a large number of members to their respective groups, thus allowing many friends to connect with each other using the 29 paisa per minute offer. Some of the biggest Dolbol communities after the University of Dhaka can be found at Chittagong University, North South University, BUET and Dhaka Medical College.
Sarah from North South University says, “This is perfect for me. I love talking on the phone and now I can stay on the phone forever!”
For smaller communities, the reach is much less. Even then, most users benefit from the Dolbol offer. “It is true that we do not have as many members in our Dolbol as some of the bigger institutions such as Dhaka University or NSU,” says Kawshik, student of a private college. “Most of us close friends are members of this particular 'Dolbol' group based in this college meaning that most of our calls to each other are for 29 paisa per minute, which is as cheap as it can get. I rarely have to call anyone for more than that.”
He says that in the last five days, his calls were made to six people, of them four were his friends, all members of his Dolbol community. “Dolbol has been very economical for me. I hardly spend anything,” he says.
Kawshik says that as a student, he naturally has to spend carefully, keeping a watchful eye on his expenses. “A tight budget and a vibrant social life, both are features of student life and they are difficult to maintain together. Now, at least concerning my mobile phone, I do not have worry about expenses,” he says. He jokingly points out that it has been some time since he has heard the monotonous female voice on the phone informing him that there is no credit in his account.
Till date, there have been more than 250,000 subscribers to Airtel's 'Dolbol' package. One hundred and fifty groups have been created where all members of a specific group can communicate at 29 paisa per minute. At this rate, the popularity of Dolbol among university students can only increase with time, leading to more groups and even more friendships cemented during the best years of one's life.