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You ain’t seen nothing yet in mobile, say VAS experts

16-January-2009
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You ain’t seen nothing yet in mobile, say VAS experts

Mobile value-added service (VAS) in India, current trends and future directions as well as mobile advertisement and marketing came under the scanner at the VAS India 2009 International Conference, held in Mumbai on January 15. The first VAS India conference in India was organised by Bharat Exhibitions. The event attracted eminent panellists from the mobile advertising and marketing industry.

Some of the well-known names among the panellists of the early morning session included Viren Popli, Senior Vice President and Head - Mobile Entertainment, Star India Pvt Ltd; Pradeep Shrivastava, CMO, Idea Cellular; Vijay Shekhar Sharma, MD, One97 Communications; and Salim Mobhani, COO, Hungama Mobile.

Road Map, Challenges and Opportunities

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, mobile VAS in India accounts for 10 per cent of the operator’s revenue and is expected to reach 18 per cent by 2010.

Popli observed, “There is still a lot of innovation left to be done in mobile. We are going to see a lot many innovations coming up, however delivery will continue to remain a challenge.”

Mobhani said, “Mobiles have a lot more aspirational values than a bar of soap. Mobile is the one device that connects people to the large world. It is also the second most penetrated device in the world. With 3G rollout, media companies will only be able to reach out to newer customers and create a paradigm of change. It will also give a boost to e-learning and thus strengthen our position further. A large mass of consumers are, in fact, not tech savvy and bundling of content will only help consumers download and gain further VAS. There is a new future out there, and it is up to us to grasp that future.”

Shrivastava noted, “Today, people are asking for more at a lower cost, more for less is going to become very critical in the next few months, hence we need to give better choices and services at a lesser cost. We need to create a high collaborative mindset. VAS stakeholders need to experiment further, because this is how you create a new hot bed of innovation.”

Listing out the challenges, Sharma said, “There is a huge amount of opportunity left to be tapped. We have not yet been able to segment our audience; the biggest segment underserved is the rural segment. The second challenge is the pricing model. Convergence is yet another challenge set before the industry, as I believe the real convergence is only between Internet and television.”

Huge Potential in the Mobile Market

In the session on ‘Mobile Advertising and Marketing: The future of Mobile Telephony’, the panellists included Sakthi Saravanan, GM, One97 Communications; Abhinav Mathur, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer, Cellebrum Technology Ltd; Harrish Gandhi, Executive Directive, Canaan Partners; and Rolf Assev, Chief Strategy Officer, Opera Software. The session was chaired by SS Sirohi, Deputy Director General - VAS, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.

Saravanan said, “Everyone has a need to engage their end users, who eventually become their consumers, but if the information does not reach the consumers at the right time and the right place, and worse, if it is not a relevant advertisement, then it becomes a lost cause. Mobile is the only channel that can enable all this seamlessly. Mobile marketing is not pure marketing, but a new way of doing business.”

Mathur opined, “Mobile is one such medium that allows the transaction to happen as and when the communication is given. The potential of mobile marketing and advertising is huge, and fortunately the recognition of this form of advertising has been created. As mobile advertising grows, it also adds growth to the revenues. Mobile advertising has high penetration and usage; it also has efficient access to the hard-to-reach youth. There is also a much greater likelihood of response. So, are we ready? Yes. There are close to 300 million subscribers in the market today that is only growing day by day.”

He further said, “The critical success factors for mobile advertisers are that it has to have a relevant content, there is also a demography that has to be understood, and above all, the advertisements should not be intrusive. There is a high probability that this year might just see something new on the revenue front, and one should also be able to measure the effectiveness of that mobile campaign.”

Future of the Digital Medium

According to Gandhi, “Traditional media is beginning to see a decline, therefore, the potential of mobile market, which is still at a nascent stage, is very large. However, this medium has not taken off as yet as there are a lot of industry issues that need to be sorted out. Today, there are very few brands that are advertising on mobiles. The chief concern of the advertisers is the lack of large enough profile customer.”

“Media planners need to be flexible and begin experimenting with this medium. The mobile industry is still in the early stages, therefore, it needs to have early successes. The mobile industry is a fantastic medium and is undoubtedly the future of the digital medium,” he asserted.

Is Mobile Internet Advertising Hyped?

Assev felt, “There is a huge expectation from this medium and one wonders why this medium has still not taken off. The operators are afraid of losing their advertisers, however, it is the operators who can make the most out of these opportunities. They need to embrace the web as a whole, and more opportunities for revenues too will arise.”

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