“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”, or TANSTAAFL, is a concept that originated in the USA in the 19th century. American saloons sold drinks while offering complementary food. The catch was that the food was steeped in salt, making patrons thirstier.
Nearly a century, and an ocean removed from its origins, TANSTAAFL is playing out again. In India’s telecom sector. The country’s telecom operators, starting with Reliance Jio in 2016, opened the freebie floodgates. Tariffs hit all-time lows, subscriber numbers soared, and data consumption grew in leaps and bounds.
But the telecom business, between high spectrum costs and recurring investments in networks, is a high-debt industry.