The seventh International VAS India conference, held in Mumbai on January 21, 2010 in Mumbai, was all about ‘The road ahead for MVAS landscape in India’.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, there are over 480 million mobile phone users in India and mobile VAS in the country accounts for 10 per cent of the operator’s revenue, which is expected to reach 18 per cent in 2010. Given the tremendous opportunities offered by this medium and consumer expectations, VAS experts throw light on the challenges and share the ways to further grow this medium.
The inaugural session at VAS India 2010 gave the India service providers’ perspective. The chief guest at this event was RN Prabhakar, while the panellists included Lloyd Mathias, President and CMO, Tata Teleservices; SS Sirohi, Principal General Manager and Head - VAS, BSNL; Shyam Prabhakar Mardikar, Senior VP - Networks, Bharti Airtel Ltd; and Uday Sodhi, CEO, Balaji Telefilms.
The real challenge will come with next 500m mobile customers
According to Shyam Prabhakar Mardikar, “Telecom in India is a mature business and has been the envy of the world these days. Even customers these days are very aware and demanding of services. It is all about understanding and segmenting of the customers, because India is not just one market, there is not just the rural-urban divide, but also geographical and cultural divide. As we approach the next 500 million mobile customers, the big drivers will be vernacular and voice-centric devices to those customers and this will lead to new services.”
Uday Sodhi explained, “Consumers today are fast changing and they are not the same as they were say, five years ago. I believe mobile radio, voice applications, mobile browser application and 3G will be key opportunities in the growth of mobile VAS in India. With 3G India launch, mobile TV is expected to take off in a big way. Reality and participative television will also be big part of VAS as we take it forward.”
SS Sirohi noted, “The challenges are numerous when it comes to VAS, and reaching out to another 500 million mobile customers will have its own challenges, because the next customers may be semi-literate, even someone below poverty line, because they may be a completely different set of customers you have ever targeted. Even the content for these customers may undergo sea change in order to attract new markets and we will have to attract these customers in the future. But they are also the upcoming opportunities for the industry.”
According to Lloyd Mathias, “The real challenge that we need to attend to is being consumer relevant and to get consumers to consume VAS that would add value to his lifestyle. As mobile penetrates further deep into India, the consumer needs begin to vastly differentiate.”
RN Prabhakar noted, “We have to segregate our customers and provide services at a reasonable cost. There is a demand for VAS that is invaluable in urban areas, but in rural areas we will have to think of it in an innovative way to attract a whole set of differentiated customers. There is a huge demand for mobile VAS as they will be crucial in drawing more customers in coming years. What we have to look at is giving a reliable and quality service with exciting customer offering which would not only attract newer customers but, retain the existing ones.”
Subscription drives MVAS growth in India
The session on ‘Subscriber value maximization drivers for MVAS growth in India’ had Amit Dey, CEO, Buongiorno Digital Innovation India Pvt Ltd; Sanjeev Kapoor, Head - Telecom & Govt, India Business Unit, Infosys; Anshoo Gaur, GM & Head, Amdocs India; and Vinod Vasudevan, Group CEO, Flytxt, as the panellists. The session was moderated by SS Sirohi, Principal General Manager & Head - VAS, BSNL.
Commencing the discussions, SS Sirohi said, “Everyone looks for value for money, customer expectations, too, are growing everyday, and today he looks for refreshment and innovations. To ensure there is value maximisation of customers, all stakeholders have to focus the aspect value creation as the revenue generates only when the customer uses your services.”
Amit Dey noted, “I believe maximising engagement and loyalty leads to MVAS growth, but how do we get the consumers back is a big challenge. While we have focused extensively on products for entertainment, we have not reached the engagement stage as yet, which is a critical stage. The worry is that we don’t know who these consumers are and how to get them back. I believe that for us to get sustainable growth in mobile VAS, we need to have mobile engagement and loyalty.”
According to Sanjeev Kapoor, “Mobile in India has come a long way, and mobile will now be the Internet, the kiosk, and retail, it’s going to become your school and even your payment counter, etc. There is a need to understand consumer behaviour and to bring in relevant services to the people, which will drive VAS growth. I believe that software and innovation will be the pillars for VAS growth in India.”
Anshoo Gaur observed, “Growth of VAS in India is exploding from a small base and customer experience is becoming even more critical as there are increasing customer expectations. I believe piracy is stifling the business, operators also prefer revenue models and these are some of the challenges that the industry still faces. However, voice is critical and will be key to success. While market opportunities for VAS are growing in India, service providers are the key vehicles for selling VAS.”
Speaking on monetisation, where there is a great opportunity in India, Vinod Vasudevan pointed out, “The services need to be promoted to the relevant subscribers and there is a need to make real time contextual offers. However, what is also important is the need to always listen to subscribers and react to them immediately, which would result in retaining high value customers.”