Chances are that a lot of people you meet use their mobile devices for a host of reasons apart from just conversing. The mobile acts as a planner, Internet service provider, source of entertainment and also to communicate. All these would have been difficult to envisage eight years ago when mobile telephony came to India amidst much fanfare and scepticism.
You name the service and it is available on your phone. This ranges from sports, weather, stock quotes, politics or just plain news updates. A lot of services being offered by the service providers use the Internet and have very been successful. “The Internet has changed the way we live our lives and the way we do things,” explains Reliance Infocomm’s president (applications & solutions group) Mahesh Prasad.
Reliance Infocomm offers a variety of innovative applications on its Reliance IndiaMobile service. One key application is that of R World which provides the user complex Internet applications. R World is Java-based and this allows Reliance subscribers to enjoy multimedia and Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS). Every Reliance Infocomm handset comes with the pre-configured R World button to launch the R World applications.
A large part of Internet applications for mobile users revolves around downloading ringtones and customised logos. R World, with its suite of applications, is working towards providing a host of other services to ensure that the mobile will be the “one-stop-shop” for the user.
“Our strategy will be to leverage the Internet and the adjunct space. Quite obviously, only mobile voice will not be enough,” points out Mr Prasad.
The R World applications over the Internet requires several programming platforms. For this, Java capability is required in various forms. According to Mr Prasad, J2ME is central to every requirement. “This gives us an application environment which means we are in a position to offer a host of multiple applications,” he explains.
Among the suite of services offered by R World are hourly news updates, stock news, video streaming, downloadable multilingual ringtones, seasonal updates (which includes festivals), city and television guides, exam results and also what your stars foretell!
Apart from J2ME, R World has another robust platform - RAP or Reliance Application Platform. RAP facilitates the smooth process of a user sourcing a particular requirement. “RAP is what sits on our network. In fact, we are the first client server to use J2ME so extensively,” claims Mr Prasad. The J2ME engine that is used has been customised by Reliance. It needs to be mentioned that J2ME is not used for just games; both J2ME and J2EE are employed for this.
It is important to understand how the process works on the user’s handset - rather what is the process by which an application actually gets done. It is from the user’s phone that it goes to a particular tower and then to the RAP. From the RAP, it makes its way to an application like video content before it gets back to the user. If you have a transaction which involves a payment, that will form another gateway. Reliance, in fact, has recently joined hands with HDFC Bank which will allow the user’s handset to perform the role of a micro-payment device. As a result, the user will be able to perform every banking transaction from his handset such as asking for a demand draft, checking his account balance just to name a few things.
It is indeed impossible to imagine what your handset is capable of doing and even more difficult to predict what it will be able to do. The applications begin with the handset which has an operating system within itself. The second stage is the handset looking for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) before choosing the desired application which is followed by the application itself talking to the RAP.
“The applications that are offered to the subscribers are a combination of those that are used regularly and those that are topical,” says Mr Prasad. The regular applications include news updates while festivals or any event in particular would need to be customised depending on which part of the country you are in. He adds that things like cricket and festivals are topical in nature and that these are important to R World.
There are challenges involved in the process which comprise taking R World to a mobile application. The role of the Internet in the entire process can never be undermined. As Mr Prasad points out, every concept is derived from the Internet. This could be something as simple as downloading a song for instance.
Reliance Infocomm is also looking at transactions via the mobile phone as a key business opportunity. “Credit card payments through the Reliance IndiaMobile phone is a reality today.” he says. Not surprisingly, financial transactions are the most difficult to tackle since users are reluctant to share a great deal of information. With m-commerce slowly becoming a reality, the power of the Internet seems limitless.
Subscribers are continuously looking for ways to make their lives simpler; for the operator, therefore, this makes it necessary to offer as many services as possible. Using the Internet, service providers like Reliance Infocomm can make product offerings based on information enabled communication and entertainment.
So, what could be the next big business offering? “Travel seems the next big thing since tourists are looking for a hassle-free way of moving around. Shopping too is not too far away,” explains Mr Prasad.
Evidently, operators are working towards reducing dependence on revenues generated from voice and paving the way for new revenue streams primarily through value-added services. Mr Prasad sums it up when he says, “Business will happen if you can give value.”