VoicenData Bureau
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The Indian mobile device and applications market has been firing all

cylinders since the last couple of years. Not only have the prices of handsets

crashed, new companies and latest models have forayed onto the retail shelves.

Perhaps the most remarkable launch of a mobile device in 2004 was that of



And in the applications arena, the media companies, especially the news

channels, got the viewers to participate in contests and polls through the short

code SMSs. But the market still waits for multimedia-rich applications that

would transform the way we look at the wireless world.

The applications market

Today most of the mobile applications market is limited to retail customers.

About 11—13 percent of the mobile revenue comes from value-added services

(VAS) or non-voice services. And of this share, almost 80 percent is

peer-to-peer messaging. Rest 20 percent comes from various third-party

enterprise applications. In revenue terms this would be less than Rs 400 crore.

However, both operators and application developers are betting on enterprise

applications and expect it to jump to 30—35 percent of the VAS revenue.

To pull it or to push it?: Mobile applications can be divided into two types:

they would be either pushed to the users or be pulled by them. While SMS-based

applications can be pulled or pushed, MMS are pull oriented. E.g., a video clip

has to be requested for. Operators don't push it to handsets.


In a business-to-consumer type of environment, most applications are pulled

from the enterprise servers and only in the case of broadcast is the information

pushed. E.g., lottery companies in the West Asia push the results to

subscribers. In a business- to-business or business-to-employee environment it

would depend on the company policy whether it wants to push the data on a

regular basis or restrict it, to be pulled when required.

SMS takes the day: The applications market today revolves around SMS-based

applications. Be it ring tones, video clips, or any information, they can all be

accessed and downloaded by sending SMSs. Enterprises, on their part, broadcast

their offerings by pushing SMSs to users who in turn send another SMS to avail

the service.

After voice, SMS is the most widely used as primary application and has found

favor with retail and business users. Operators are also happy as it uses less

bandwidth and gives good revenue per message, ranging from Rs 6 to Rs 200.

Developers use SMS as the base for other applications.


A hot SMS application in the market is short code. It is a four-digit number

blocked with all operators. Users SMS to the short code the code of the

application, access train reservation, airline schedules, video clips, pictures,

ringtones, or company data sheets.


codes are sold by the third-party application vendors and can also be had

directly from the operators. But buying them from specific operators requires

the same code being available with all the operators. And buying it from the

operators can lead to major coordination and billing problems. Thus it makes

sense to buy it from a single vendor who offers the code and the platform to

access information. Media houses have successfully implemented the short code to

feed news to subscribers. Similarly, banks and financial institutions use them

to give out stock and transaction reports.

SMS-based IVR: Recently, Bharti Tele-Ventures and Infosys broadcasted their

quarterly results through an IVR-based application. Users could hear the results

on their phone by sending an SMS. This application is particularly beneficial to

call center and banks, where users wants to access a particular information

while on the move. But these applications have to be made more interactive to

reduce the monotony of speaking to a prerecorded voice.


You cannot escape SFA: When the whole world is going for automation and is

adopting wireless, it is a matter of time before Indian enterprises empower

their sales force with data on their mobiles. Imagine the power of a marketing

sales force that can check inventory in the Mumbai office while sitting in

Imphal and simultaneously place order for the delivery, all from a single mobile

device. Sales force automation (SFA) has caught the imagination of

pharmaceutical and FMCG companies. Even paint and automobile companies are

adopting SFA applications in some form.

Though the term SFA focuses on sales and marketing, its applications can arm

all employees with relevant information. This information could be office

e-mail, appointments calendar, or financial data-anything that can be accessed

over office desktops.

MMS for insurance companies: Though still in trial phase, insurance companies

are planning to cut down the claim processing time by empowering evaluators with

MMS-enabled phones, so they may click and send the pictures to the main office

where the claim amount can be calculated and referred to the field guy. While

MMS handsets and applications have been tested, the only issue is that networks

should be ready to support MMS.


Similarly, utility meters readings can be captured as images and used for

calculating the bills. Field tests are also on for mobile tickets, where hard

copies are replaced by bar codes on the handset screens, which can be read by a

bar code reader to complete the transaction. Here, security is a much bigger

issue than network. Enterprises need to feel confident before using it with


GPS for transport industry: Today you can track couriered packages over the

Internet. GPS applications enable couriers and transporters to track their

consignment in real time over a handset.

Vehicle tracking is today the most widely used GPS application and soon

courier companies will be able to tell you, over mobile phones, whether your

packet has reached or is still on its way.


Video streaming on the way: With operators strengthening their network

capacity, 2005 might finally see video streaming happen. Developers have created

software to compress live video feed and fit it to the handset's size. Though

Hutch has been promoting TV program clips for EDGE subscribers, it really needs

to be seen how enterprises adopt live TV. Conferencing seems to be the obvious

application in the B2B and B2E space.

For consumers live news, sports, and films on handsets would be the show

stealers. With 3G around the corner, MMS and video applications also need to be

kept on the radar screens.

CIO's Clarifications

What would be the RoI? What about confidentiality of data? These are obvious

questions management would ask a CIO trying to implement mobile applications.

Adopting any mobile application is an expense, with no assurance of direct

returns. E.g., customers may use a bank's short code toll free but the bank

has to pay the application providers and the operators.


Of course, returns are in the shape of better customer focus. If customers

get better service they remains loyal and brings in more business. It becomes a

great tool in acquiring new customers and retaining old ones.

In the B2B space it gives employees flexibility in business execution and

makes the whole process efficient and reduces the turnaround time. Employees

have everything on the mobile and don't have to rush to the office for data or

consultations before closing deals. Such application gives obvious competitive


Overall, workforce and IT infrastructure is optimally utilized, which in the

long run reflects in the company's balance sheet.

Look before you leap

The first step towards creating and adopting a wireless environment is to

identify what all things can be put on the applications and how would the

billing be done. Though 'pay per use' is the best model when the usage is

low but when user base is large, explore one time fee. If an enterprise is going

for short code from different operators, billing becomes an issue.

In case of SMS-based applications, particularly when more data is being

accessed over it, character optimization becomes key on the relatively small

screen of the handsets.

There are two ways of implementing a mobile application. One is through the

mobile operators, who bundles the applications along with voice services and can

also customize the handset screens for the enterprise. Reliance, Airtel, Hutch,

and Idea have e-mail and e-billing offerings for the enterprises. But remember,

the core business for any operator is providing services. They get applications

from a third party, who can also be approached directly.

In either case, the basic platform or the application has to be customized.

CIOs have to choose the best at the optimal cost. An enterprise can also get the

applications developed for itself. However, a network operator it still need a

for the connectivity.

Nowadays, high service level agreements are taken for granted. Even with 99

percent uptime no one buys the services. But adhering to SLAs with more than 99

percent uptime is difficult. As the enterprises depend heavily on the

applications and virtually run their business on them, 24x7 customer and

technical support is a must.

Be sure of the network capacity before adopting multimedia applications.

Here, sticking to one operator across geographies helps in maintaining service

consistency. As the data is critical for business, better to ask for redundancy

and backup on the network in case of a disaster.

Security is another concern area. In B2B and B2E situations, once data leaves

the company server and rides on public network, it is easy to intercept. And

things like handsets getting misplaced or someone else using the handset puts

the company's business at risk. In a B2C scenario, a customer might not like

others snooping around his data. Companies like VeriSign have been supporting

application developers and network operators to give secure environment for

users especially where financial data is being exchanged.





product manager, Lifetree

Arun Gupta,
CEO, Mauj

Atanu Mandal,
president, ACL Wireless

Mohit Bhatnagar,
vice president, NPD and alliances, Bharti Cellular

RS Krishnan,
director India operations, VeriSign

Satish Kejriwal,
COO, CellNext

Vijay Shukla,
country head, ValueFirst

SMS-based Information Exchange

Banking: Alerts to customers on credits/debits, customers request for

bank balance through SMS keywords

Alerts to customers on insurance premium and due dates,

Sales and service:
Alerts to service engineers on customer calls, e-mail

alerts to the sales managers; request for stock information; material dispatch

details; payment information by employees, partners and customers

Travels and tours:
Alerts to corporate members on ticket/hotel booking

confirmations; customers/partners request for information on tariffs for package


Retail shops:
Customers request for details on festival offers, discount

sales; alerts to membership customers on prizes, special offers; partners

exchange information on payment receipts, material dispatch details, stock

information etc through SMS from any part of the country


Alerts to membership customers on new movie releases; SMS-based ticket booking;

management request for information on payment collections

Education media and entertainment:
SMS-based information access of exam

results, SMS-based viewer's polls and feedback, SMS-based promotions/contests

Application service providers:
Information access- and alert-services (news,

astrology, sports, and stock information)

Public services and utilities:
Information access and alerts through SMS

(electricity and telephone bills payment reminders, emergency information

alerts, alerts on national highways)

SMS-based information access by partners/customers on payment

receipts, material dispatch details, spares/stock information etc. from any part

of the country

Check hotel room availability through SMS from any part of the

country; send SMS to customers on calls received during their absence

Emergency alerts to doctors and maintenance staff; requests for

doctor availability, OPD timings

Call centers:
Alerts on customer call statistics/key performance indicators;

access of workforce information by call center managers

Stock exchanges:
Alerts to partners on Sensex updates, payments; SMS-based

stock information access by customers

These are some sample applications that can be achieved for different industry
verticals using SMS-based solutions