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Rajiv Hiranandani

VP-sales and Mktg | 29 Dec 2003

Sending message to an existing database is wrong. Only when you have an optimum database of people who have permitted brands to message them is effective marketing. That differentiates a meaningful message from a spam and makes all the difference to your communication.

Wireless marketing in India is in a very nascent stage. However, in just a matter of six months, tools like sms marketing are looking up. The extent is such that many brands are utilising such tools to make their communication interactive and effective. When it comes to sms marketing, mobile2win is a pioneer of the technique in India.

In a candid talk with Noor Fathima Warsia, Rajiv Hiranandani, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Mobile2win discusses the initial scepticism of the technique, the intricacies of the medium and the speed with which it is growing.

Q. What is mobile2win all about?

Mobile2win started in India in May. Our basic business is to create effective marketing solutions for brands using the wireless medium. We are already present in China and well established there. In India we are essentially the pioneers of wireless marketing.

Q. Pioneering new marketing techniques is not an easy task. Did you face such scepticism in the early days?

Oh, we had our share and more. Any new strategy or mode goes through the uncertainty period. There are many things people want to know. About RoIs, whether it will compliment an interesting marketing plan. How will it reach out to consumers? Is it an effective direct marketing tool? Is it just another fad that will pass out? My team and I were also asked these questions. But that period has passed. We started with three clients and now we have already tied up with 20 to 25 clients. People's interest in wireless marketing is increasing.

Q. What does wireless marketing necessarily consist of?

Wireless marketing significantly consists of SMS marketing. Then there is MMS and java also. SMS marketing is the new mantra, the new tool for the marketers to reach out to the masses. It's a direct, one to one marketing tool. In java, there is java gaming and java application that together form the wireless marketing pie. We have to customise these tools to brand requirement.

Q. How would you place each in the pie?

SMS easily takes 90%. Look at the change of the number of mobile users in the country and the number of clients using the medium; it's growing at a rate of 200% to 300% every month. It makes e-mails passé.

Q. How does SMS marketing function?

To begin with the short code number, that is 8558 for us, and the promotion campaign has to be mentioned on existing ads of the other mediums. Then SMS marketing functions in two phases. First is pull marketing and the second is push. Pull is when the consumer responds to the ad. The push scenario is when a message is sent to the mobile user.

Q. And then together they are used for effective mobile marketing?

Yes, that is the way it is supposed to be. But the catch here is that brands and operators have to be very careful. There is a very thin line between spam and non spam. Spam is unsolicited messages. Presently, many people are getting push messages from brands, which is only a lot of rubbish. That is not effective wireless marketing. Effective wireless marketing is when you have an optimum data base of people who have given their numbers, given permission to get messages from brands. Only after this, should companies like mobile2win or other advertisers and brands send messages to these people. This way the consumer and the brands both benefit.

Q. What are the various benefits of SMS marketing?

The first benefit is that it makes your communication interactive. Also it reaches out to people on the move. It is the only medium where people sitting in the bus, in the car can take part in a promotion within a period of ten secs. So that means there is immediate action on part of the consumer. There is no other marketing tool that can induce a customer to take advantage of an offer and go to a brand outlet in the next two minutes and only because he is mobile. Then it is a hugely growing tool with 22 million mobile phone users in the country today.

Q. Can you give a few examples of clients who have benefited by SMS marketing?

There are quite a few. Lufthansa airlines did a campaign with us. It was the first ever SMS auction in Asia. Due to the amount of the people who could participate, at any given time there were 400 to 500 responses. For Lufthansa, the benefits are that the number of responses was good. More people knew that Lufthansa is getting into these auctions and associated it with cutting edge technology. And Lufthansa got a very good database of people.

Then there is Fosters. During the grand prix, they were showing the sport on the big screen and consumers could win passes. Because of the SMS campaign, awareness of the association increased, Fosters too got a database and they went further to form a wireless club. In a similar way there are various counts where most of our clients gained due to SMS marketing.

Q. And what are the problems with the medium?

The first thing is that advertisers need to be careful about the usage of push. They should be careful in implementing a mobile marketing campaign so that they don't annoy the consumer. You can't just send messages to your entire database because you have it. That will switch people off the medium.

Second is not so much of a hurdle. But when it comes to pull marketing advertisers also need to first give it a ground to be known. That is the message has to be there in some kind of an existing communication on any other medium. People should be able to see it. They will know about and only then they can participate in it. It is more of a check.

Q. Doesn't that make SMS marketing very dependable?

It is in a very nascent stage now. In a later phase they don't need to have such a communication in place because they would have already created the wireless club and have an existing database in place. That is how the medium will grow. That is what you see with Standard Chartered Bank, Dominoes, Fosters… these names now have people whom they regularly update about their services and these numbers keep growing.

Q. But despite that, given the mobile penetration, how many people can you reach?

22 million users is not a small number. Most of this number utilises SMS service. Even if you were to compare it with countries like China where the number of users is anywhere between 240 to 250 million, the growth in India is way faster and that is essential. Take for example the Sony TV Lagaan promotion. We got 55,000 responses for the movie in the space of 8 hrs. That is not a small number.

Q. In China you used SMS to make TV commercials interactive. How was that done?

What we did in China was the world's largest promotion. In a space of two weeks, we got 4 million SMS responses. It was done for Coke, where the TV ads carried a scroll where consumers could participate in the promotion. They were asked to SMS Coke to 8558, answer questions about the ad and the brand. These questions are fun and educative at the same time and people went back to see the ad to participate. So that ways even the break TRPs increase. The promotion can be very effective. In India, Bacardi is already getting into this kind of marketing and there are a few who are considering it as well.

Q. What is the essential role of mobile2win in wireless marketing?

Our basic business is to create effective marketing solutions for brands using the wireless medium Each of our clients have different objectives ranging from making the existing communication interactive to increasing awareness

Q. How do you go about making these marketing solutions?

The basics in each case remain the same. The differentiation comes with other area comes, that is the brief, product and the objectives of the campaign. Then all you have to do is to logically see how you attain those objectives, what are the new things that you can try and definitely expect results.

Q. How do you compare yourself against competition?

There is no real competition in the market at this stage. We have the benefits of the first mover. The very fact that we are connected with all the operators in the country and competition is not, places me a step ahead. Then there are instances where short codes have not worked or the likes.

So for us, we set the bar of improvement. In the past period of 6 months, 90 % of the promotion campaigns are done by us. With clients like Smirn off, Ray Ban and HBO we have handled different product categories.

Q. So what is next on your agenda?

The prime goal on the agenda now is to work closely with mobile users to build a good relationship with them. To get wireless marketing well placed in the realm of advertising and marketing. To get WLL also in our connectivity and to explore other potential revenue segments.

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