Indian Cos Looking for a Piece of Mobile VAS

by Prabhu Ram    Jan 16, 2009

Stakeholders in the telecom industry comprise of carriers, operators, and content aggregators, each trying hard to innovate for new measures to reach their targeted customers through mobile phone.


Telecom carriers, the primary stake holders in the industry offer services in two models –the on deck and off deck. The on deck model forces vendors or advertisers to use the telecom carrier s infrastructure for branding, hence resulting the in limited access termed as the walled garden effect.


However, advertisers prefer the off deck model enabling the user of use of carrier infrastructure for billing their products and services, but the marketing and branding is independent of the mobile operators, giving more flexibility.


TRAI is trying to sort this issue between telecom carriers and vendors. Concerns have been voiced by mobile operators and their representative bodies - the COAI, AUSPI that the issue of VAS is an internal agreement with a vendor, and TRAI should not get involved in commercial agreements or negotiations.



Carriers in the telecom industry, during registration, avail comprehensive information and along with the periodic billing information of the user, profile users segmenting uses for targeted advertisement. Mobile carriers then sell the profiled database to the vendors or advertisers in two above mentioned business models, the on deck and off deck.


The intrinsic ability of the mobile phone, to access information on the go and the highly level of  privacy in accessing the content has opened new categories to content providers and advertisers that is oblivion to the traditional media, explained Sri Maroo, director of Shemaroo, an entertainment content provider.


The mobile VAS industry in India, however being largely viable and potential still has miles to go, claimed Harish Gandhi, director at Canaan Partners, a venture capitalist firm specializing in mobile space. According to them, majority of the mobile users in India have a low priced mobile. 


He pointed out that there are still many apprehensions on the use of VAS in mobile (use of M-banking, entertainment, infotainment, etc.) primarily due to the lack of awareness, He said that that the VAS business is restricted only to urban cities and youth. According to him, VAS to take full effect across the country will have to address the issues of localization that includes services in the local language and pertinent content.


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