Thursday, August 25, 2011

We Have Not Marketed The Internet Medium Well In India

Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) is an industry body founded in January 2004 which represents various members of India’s internet and telecommunications ecosystem, such as online publishers, e-commerce firms, mobile marketing agencies, content and services businesses, large OEMs, handset manufacturers and network companies. IAMAI lobbies with the government and is also involved in growing the internet and mobile ecosystem in the country. In conversation with Techcircle.in, Subho Ray, President, IAMAI talks about how the body has been scaling up, the recent modifications to the IT Act and offers his expert comments on the country’s lagging internet uptake and challenges faced by e-commerce entrepreneurs.

How has IAMAI been scaling up and what is your agenda for the year?
Our membership has grown from around 14 in 2006 to 110 as of April, 2011. From a close group of large Internet players initially, we are much more broad based and representative of industry. We now aspire to represent the entire gamut of stakeholders in the digital space. The association has a truly democratic structure in all matters: we follow the principle of one member one vote irrespective of the size of the company.
We focus on areas including advocacy, consumer awareness and business development for our members and CSR activities. We have grown exponentially in the last five years in all areas of work: advocacy, market research, segment development and industry events.
What are your thoughts on the speed and uptake of internet in India?
We have not marketed the medium well in our country. Unless you are able to convince people about the usefulness of the medium, you will never be able to create the necessary pull for adoption.
There are differing numbers on the size of India’s internet base – the government says it’s around 12 million connections, Google India says it’s 100 million users and IAMAI says it’s 65 million users. Why are these numbers different?
The government talks about internet connections not users; Google talks about people who hit their site [probably]. We talk about a real consumer survey. Once the details and methodology are known, people can pick their relevant number. In any case, in the past five years, I have seen most researches on numbers converging. We should be able to talk more on converging internet user numbers once our annual internet in India report is published next month.
How is IAMAI acting as a bridge between the government and industry?
We have an excellent relationship with government agencies that we work with and it helps that none of the sectors we represent are very involved or dependent on the government.
After the recent modifications to the IT Act, what is the current mood of the internet players and what can we expect, going forth?
Some of the rules for section 79 of the IT Act that guarantee safe harbour for all the intermediaries appear to be tricky to comply with. We have made our views on these problem areas to the government clear and expect some movement on this soon.
TRAI issued a directive to operators regarding their activation of value added services without taking the permission of mobile users, as it had received 672 complaints. How are operators resolving the issue?
A TRAI directive does not leave any option so operators and M-VAS companies have to follow it.
What is your take on the current e-commerce market and challenges faced by entrepreneurs?
All entrepreneurs face challenges and e-commerce entrepreneurs are no different. I think the biggest challenge that they face today is selling the category itself. I, for one, would strongly advise them to collectively create and sell the category highlighting its key virtues in parallel with building their own individual brands.
How will the government’s proposed rules for FDI in multi-brand retail affect e-commerce in India?
Most importantly, it will encourage iconic names like Amazon to set up shop in India. This in turn will mean international best practices in terms brands, scale, efficiency and customer service. Of course, there will be some buy-outs, burn-outs and stand outs! However, we would not overestimate the importance of FDI in multi-brand retail in jumpstarting the e-commerce industry in India. E-commerce so far has grown on local steam and that is going to continue; secondly, FDI itself is not a sufficient cause for international brands to set shop in India.source

Religare Launches Mediphone Service On Airtel

Religare Technologies has launched Mediphone, a 24×7 medical assistance service on phone for mobile users in partnership with Airtel.
Religare Technologies is a public listed IT services firm of the diversified business group led by billionaire brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh. Fortis Healthcare which is a part of the group is acting as the knowledge partner for the new initiative. The service was soft launched earlier this month and since then has been receiving more than a 1,000 calls on a weekly basis, according to the company.
But this is not the first such initiative; earlier Aircel had also launched its medical consultation service on phone called Apollo’s Tele Triage (in partnership with Apollo) that provided basic consultation for Rs 45.
The service, which uses a software engine licensed from Medibank, an Australian company, basically allows Airtel customers to call and seek advice on their medical conditions from certified doctors. Although it’s basically meant for non life-threatening ailments, the service can also tackle emergencies. In case of an emergency, the doctor will advice the patient and will also help him with directions for reaching the nearest hospital in the vicinity.
The fee per consultation is just Rs 35 (much less than the money charged by a general physician these days) which is charged on the mobile phone bill /account balance depending on whether it is a postpaid or a prepaid connection. To use the service, Airtel users can simply call 54445 from their mobile phones.
“The service is targeted at bridging the healthcare divide,” said Ashish Vijh, Senior Vice-President, mHealth, Religare Technologies, according to Business Line.
Earlier, Religare Technologies had set up a phone and Web-based health information service called Healthline 24×7 aimed at helping callers with locations and directions of the appropriate medical service.
As of now, the service is available in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, J&K and Himachal Pradesh but Airtel plans to extend the service across India.source

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mobile Banking – Getting Customers Past Fear

Posted on  16 August 11  by  Anastasia Milgramm

During my recent search for a new bank, I discovered that several banks now offer a mobile feature that allows customers to make deposits by taking a picture of an endorsed check and sending it to the bank using a smartphone banking app.
And that’s not all.
Banking customers can also use smartphones to pay bills, receive updates and take actions via text message, make transfers, and easily reach service reps.  
And although the global mobile banking industry has doubled in recent years and is projected to reach 1.1 billion customers by 2015, sources point out that customers are still very reluctant to adopt mobile banking apps.
Javelin Strategy & Research report outlines two specific reasons for this: 
  1. customers don’t see the full value in these apps and
  2. they have concerns around information security.  (In fact, between 2009 and 2010, the number of customers who rated mobile banking apps as “unsafe” increased by 54%.)
Does this mean that mobile banking apps are doomed?  Not necessarily.  Banks just need to change the way they position apps to customers to ensure that they give customers what they want.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we doubted the staying power of online banking – but the 60% of consumers who now bank on the Web prove that self-service shifts are inevitable.
A few thoughts on how to engage customers in the shift to mobile banking:
  • Emphasize the app as a differentiating service channel.  CCC’s study of customer channel preferences demonstrates a rapid shift to self-service:  across the last 3-5 years, the percent of customers who use self-service has grown from 10% to more than 40%. It makes sense that self-service follows technological trends: first e-mail, then Web, then social media, now smartphones.  While some banks may wait for customers to gain confidence in mobile apps, true differentiators will proactively drive that confidence.
  • Target tech-savvy customers first. A recent McKinsey study found that consumers can be characterized into groups based on the types of digital experiences they prefer. “Digital media junkies” (mostly younger men) are 3 times more likely than their peers to embrace new technologies across digital channels.  Pointing these customers in the direction of the mobile app may therefore be a smart move.  CCC members, learn how Cisco used segmentation to align different customer types with distinct channels.
  • Proactively guide customers to the app. Customers may not realize how much value they can get from mobile app functionality.  To encourage use, guide customers to the app using e-mail messaging, targeted Web site language, or proactive mention by reps.  CCC members, read about best practices on guiding the customer experience in self-service channels.
  • Address customers’ privacy concerns.  Read Corey’s three recommendations on how to ensure information privacy in service interactions. Be transparent with customers. Provide clear information on how customer data is protected on smartphones and be proactive in addressing threats.
  • Allow customers to “experiment” with mobile banking before committing. Customers might not be willing to take the full plunge into mobile banking, but companies can benefit from offering varied mobile services, such as proactive text and e-mail alerts (reminding customers, for instance, when their balance is low), maps (allowing users to find nearby branches or ATMs), orstreamlined customer service functionality (providing easy access to reps via text message, social media, etc.).
Though customers still have doubts about mobile banking, I would argue that its future is clear. Sixty percent of customers now embrace online banking via PCs and, as smartphone functionality evolves, it is inevitable that mobile banking will follow.  Successful service organizations can differentiate and gain customer loyalty by being proactive in driving this movement, not reacting when it’s too late.source

Saturday, August 13, 2011

MediaNama’s Recommendations To TRAI On Regulation Of MVAS

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has extended the date for submission of comments on its proposal to regulate mobile Value Added Services in the country, to the 23rd of August 2011. Please submit your comments to the TRAI at advbbpa@trai.gov.in or bbpa@trai.gov.in. Download the consultation paper here. They’re seeking answers to just 10 questions, so do write to them.
We’ve just completed our recommendations for submission (since the today was supposed to be the deadline). Click here to download our recommendations.
The executive summary is below, but we’ve explained our rationale for the recommendations, and specific responses to the 10 questions in the document. We’re open to feedback and suggestions for changes from you, our readers, so please feel free to write in. We’ll submit the final recommendations next week.
Executive Summary
1. MediaNama.com, the premier website for news and analysis of the digital ecosystem in India, welcomes the TRAI’s interest in ensuring the creation of a healthy and flourishing Mobile Value Added Services ecosystem, since this industry is an integral part of the nascent Digital ecosystem in the country, with the potential to impact the livelihood of hundreds of millions of individuals.
2. Mobile Value Added Services companies are currently operating as vendors to telecom operators, and the provisioning of their services and their fate is entirely in the control of the UASL/GSM/CDMA Access Service Providers. The MVAS business is already regulated by the authority through these Access Service Providers, and as such, we do not feel there is a need for further regulation of Mobile Value Added Services companies. Licensing is out of the question, since the digital content and services ecosystem is at a nascent stage, and licensing would act as a deterrent to entry of startups and smaller companies, which are often the most innovative.
3. The lines between MVAS, the Internet, Broadband VAS, DTH VAS, and services on connected devices (from tablets to cars and refrigerators) will blur in a ubiquitous environment, and any initiatives from the authority must take this into account: please view these services as being delivered over Internet Protocol, and not by platform company or access service provider. Digital Ubiquity is the future, and companies are Digital Service Providers, not just MVAS companies or Internet companies.
In that context, we would request the authority to initiate steps to break existing cartels, ease setting up of new businesses and unshackle these Digital Service Providers. This can be done by focusing on three changes:
a. Separation of ownership of identity of the Digital Service Provider from provisioning by Access Service Provider by creating a Common Short Code Registry, governed by a Common Short Code Registrar. At present, Digital Service Providers do not own the short codes they operate.
b. Separate billing for services/content from access charges, to bring transparency and standardization in consumer billing, and independence for the Digital Service Provider from Access Service Provider. We would recommend the removal of the existing revenue share mechanism as a means to ensure ubiquitous pricing mechanisms across digital platforms.
c. Enforce provisioning of independent mechanism for verification of billing, in order to address MIS issues, and bring billing for content and services in line with Mobile and Online Banking guidelines from the Reserve Bank of India. source

Monday, August 8, 2011

Haiti - Technology : Voilà, awarded for its mobile payment service T-Cash

After the award last January of the price "first on the market" for its service Tchotcho Mobile [2.5 millions of dollars], Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI) created in June 2011, has handed last Friday to the phone operator Voilà, a check of 1, 5 million dollars for "Second on the market" for its mobile payment service "T-Cash" in Haiti.

This award is part of a program initiated by the USAID-HIFIVE, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to encourage, up to 10 million dollars, the development of mobile payment services in Haiti, like the existing service M-PESA in Kenya.

One of the important criteria of selection, required to the companies to competition, had to have at least 100 independent agents across the country that have recorded at least 1,000 transactions each. "The dossier submitted by Voilàg reatly exceeded this minimum [...] More than 150,000 subscribers already use T-Cash" has noted satisfied, Robin Padberg, General Manager of the Comcel.

Launched in December 2010, in collaboration with Unibank, T-Cash allows "to hold on its own mobile phone, a balance of 2,500 gourds to make deposits, withdrawals, local transfers, and other financial transactions such as buying or selling of goods and services," said Robin Padberg.

"The launch of mobile payment services in Haiti in a period as short, in a difficult environment, is the result of extraordinary efforts by all concerned: the mobile network operators, financial institutions and the Haitian regulatory institutions," said for his part, Greta Greathouse, Director of HIFIVE.

According Comcel, the telephone company Voilà, will invest all of these 1.5 million dollars in its distribution network T-Cash, in order to improve the accessibility of this service to the customers in Haiti.

Worldwide mobile connections to reach 5.6 billion

Worldwide mobile connections will reach 5.6 billion in 2011, from 5 billion connections in 2010, representing 11 percent increase, according to a report by Gartner. Mobile data services revenue will total USD 314.7 billion in 2011, a 22.5 percent increase from 2010 revenue of USD 257 billion. The report also says that worldwide mobile connections will experience steady growth through 2015 when mobile connections are forecast to reach 7.4 billion, and mobile data revenue will reach USD 552 billion.
"Mobile data traffic will increase significantly as more people will have access to mobile data networks, there is a migration toward smartphones and an increase in sales of media tablets,” said Jessica Ekholm, Principal Research Analyst, Gartner.
For generating the report, Gartner took into account four major mobile data traffic drivers: growth in the number of mobile connections, increasing availability of higher-speed data-centric mobile networks, smartphones, and data-consuming content and applications. In addition to the total number of connections growing, Gartner also expects that mobile data usage per connection will increase throughout the forecast period and that there will be a shift in mobile users' perception of mobile data around the world, as data plans go from being seen as a luxury, to being considered a nice-to-have service, to finally being perceived as potentially essential.
As per the report,  growing number of mobile connections will lead to higher demands on communication service providers' (CSPs') data networks as more people access the networks to use mobile data and to send text messages. "Data revenue will continue to grow but at a much slower rate, causing a decoupling between revenue and data traffic, and creating an increase in network costs for carriers as they try to sustain growing data traffic," said Ekholm.
Gartner expects CSPs to increasingly start moving towards offering more flexible and more personalized data plans, which should help capture a larger mobile data user base. "What carriers currently need are innovative ways to increase data revenue while finding smart solutions to manage a growing demand in data," said Sylvain Fabre, Research Director, Gartner.
Gartner analysts said carriers should investigate the pros and the cons of more customized pricing plans, such as tiered pricing, a la carte and usage-based plans, carefully weighing additional costs and future benefits. As per Gartner analysts, CSPs should also look to offer increased flexibility in pricing and introduce add-on pricing models, in which users are able to add data access when they want to. These add-on pricing models could include paying for additional usage and additional speed, and a fee for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or for gaming.
“Carriers should focus on increasing the level of clarity and the transparency of their mobile data contracts in order to make the majority of customers feel more at ease in using data services. This is particularly important when it comes to data roaming. Offering clients various ways of being able to track and monitor their data usage would help carriers receive a larger amount of revenue from more profitable lower-usage, medium-pay users," said Ekholm. source