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Building COAI’s new brand identity in the age of telecom convergence
Nov 21, 2013 Published in content
Every once in a while, the context in which an organization grows and thrives changes dramatically, compelling a complete change in its leadership, administration and governance. This often triggers an impulse to redefine one’s objectives, audiences and identity, thus getting the brand ready to shed its old skin.

The recent launch of a new brand identity and logo for the Cellular Operator Association of India, conceived and driven by the leadership team and the association’s key industry stakeholders reveals the compelling factors behind its rebranding exercise and just how heavily invested they are in organisational change.

Talking to the media, Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI said, “What started as an association of telecom service providers in the country has today expanded to be a thought leader in the industry, with members including mobile service providers, telecom infrastructure players, telecom equipment manufacturers among others and is still expanding to include other allied and critical stakeholders of the sector. In tune with this growth, size and convergence of the industry, COAI has undertaken a makeover of its brand image and identity to continue to play the role of a thought leader for the industry.”

The new logo represents the transition from a dominant voice to a dominant data environment and a converging mobility business which calls for more inclusive approach to the entire sector. The previous logo and brand guidelines served COAI for 18 years. During this period, COAI expanded its working sphere and evolved into a telecom industry body representing not only the cellular operators but increasingly also telecom equipment manufacturers, mobile manufacturers, IT firms etc.

The official rebranding brief to Woodapple read “Our Objective is to make COAI THE organisation which is pursuing the integration of all these allied services under the unified ambit of MOBILE TELECOM so as to ensure the holistic growth of the sector and aspire towards leadership in technology at the global level. COAI is dedicated towards advancement of mobile communications and synchronisation of allied interests in the sector.” COAI’s vision until now was“To facilitate the establishment of a world-class Cellular Infrastructure and deliver the benefits of affordable mobile telephony services to the people of India.”

The Logo Challenges
“Old, New, Borrowed and Blue”

Human beings love a sense of continuity, even as the excitement of something new urges us to move forward to discover new spaces and new experiences. Organizations are really no different. So when it came down creative brainstorming the new logo with Woodapple, the core team enjoyed the slew of choices and new ideas until they took stock of how far a new identity can take them without losing a sense of continuity. The consensus grew around the thought that if something could be retained from the old logo, the essence of the original organization identity might not be lost altogether. A close look helped retrieve the idea of the honeycomb symbolizing the network of cellular spaces and the new logo incorporated this reshaping the pattern to give definition to the element and impact to the design. This impact was further emphasised by clear bold modern typography for the organisation name. The use of a font with some rounded edges softens the brand image and gives a modern progressive feel to the logo. The idea of a speech bubble symbolising COAI’s key proposition as the voice of the industry lent itself seamlessly to present the power of the brand and the essence of its inclusive objective.

Reaction from the press
The media has responded positively to the new brand identity ( Some papers referred to the new logo adding dimension and motion to the previous logo, while others spoke about how ‘COAI Unveils New Brand Identity, Positions Itself For The Next Big Revolution In The Mobile Communications Sector’ (

COAI’s official press release states the aims of the logo and how they reflect the new aims of the organisation, “Together the cells represent the industry and its components, the voice of the industry and the inclusion of all players big and small in the emerging converging eco-system. The graphic as a ‘speech bubble’ represents leadership through social & economic inclusion. As a ‘dream bubble’ it represents the future of India as an information society and thought-leader. As a ‘cloud’ it represents technological ubiquity and innovation, and virtual technology – the future. Primary colours of the logo are Blue, representing a dependable, articulate communicator and Black representing firmness, authority, power and integrity, attributing COAI the leadership role.”

At the logo’s unveiling, Chairman of COAI (who is also the CEO of Idea Cellular) Himanshu Kapania said “The re-branding activity is a part of our effort to be abreast with the changing trends in technology and customer demands. The industry and the association have evolved over the years adapting to the global standards and best practices,”

At present, COAI’s core members include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Aircel, Unitech Wireless (now Telewings Communications), Videocon Communications (now Videocon Telecom). Its associate members include Alcatel-Lucent India, Ascend telecom Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, Cisco Systems India, Ericsson Communications, GTL Infrastructure, Huawei Telecommunications (I), IBM India, Nokia Siemens Networks, Qualcomm India, ZTE India.

Soon, internet service providers and even social media companies like Google and Facebook will have a strong association to lobby for them. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which currently lobbies for GSM mobile operators, has decided go for fresh membership acquisitions that would be open to all companies operating in the cellular telephony, data services and related industries.
By Suparna Banerjee
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