Saturday, July 16, 2011
I have been an Indian Telecom professional since almost a decade now. And since I am a bit of a student of strategy myself I am going to attempt to imagine NEW VALUES that Indian telecom can create by just adding a few cosmetic layers to its foundations.
To me Telecom is the business of connecting different people or points. It’s not about selling minutes alone. Not many know – but top Indian Telcos like Idea, Voda and Airtel own the biggest distribution machineries anywhere in the world delivering a mindboggling 10 billion + units of recharges every month. They are behemoths who have the best of the manpower, infrastructures and deep pockets.
Here’s my list of top 10 outside ideas the telcos can consider to create new values and new businesses– by just unlocking some of the existing asset’s values
1. Direct to Home deliveries – Ask a EBAY.COM or any of the newly launched e commerce portal the value of the distribution that we own. Ability to send anything to any part of country on back of our own (not outsourced 3rd party) distribution is priceless. Also ask them the value of having already enrolled the customer and having a contact centre set up ready at the other end. We already are a biggest catalogue retailer in the country who is yet to open shop!
2. Google On Phone - Just Dial – whose business it? Who should have created it first? Is it not funny that it took a Just Dial to make us realize the value of becoming a GOOGLE on phone? With low literacy rates and internet penetration– there will always be opportunity for a GOOGLE on phone to emerge. Doesn’t matter that some small players have taken a small first movers advantage. Given their sheer size the telcos can do a far better ‘me too’ product and take that market away.
3. A discount catalogue – this is an allied business to the Just Dial model or the Google model. Once you own the searches then you can always own a bit of additional value from each of the business that gets benefited by that platform. Again given that the telcos are already interacting with close to a million shop owners already – and each and every street of India is pounded daily by its sales force - this job of enlisting offers from various establishments should come naturally to the telcos
4. VAS retailer on the phone – The mobile VAS industry today is 10000 Crs. And still each and every VAS buyer is confused about how to buy / understand his favorite VAS service. A VAS retailer on the phone – one single number where the customers can dial and can directly speak to a telecaller is the order of the day. Need I mention that this retailer need not be brand exclusive :-)
5. A desi me too FACEBOOK, Google, You Tube, GetJar and EBAY– Bulk of future internet consumers are yet to log in for the first time. Bulk of the future internet consumption will happen via the mobile phone. What are we waiting for? Didn’t the Chinese create their local version of Google and EBAY? I think there’s serious business case for Indian Telcos to create multiple ‘me toos’ duplicates of popular web products – and peddle it to their own captive customers. Take the vernacular route if you wish. There’s immense value that can be created without much effort on this count.
6. “Radio on the go” – Telcos today are biggest sellers of music and Radio is the medium to sell music. Imagine an exclusive radio station for Airtel or Idea subscribers – somehow preloaded on the SIM card or the bundled handset or even otherwise. We can promote all service updates, new VAS products via the RJs. And all songs that are played are immediately sold as ringtones and CRBTs. Do you think that makes sense?
7. Telco as Banks –Indian telcos today handle over a billion transactions on DAILY basis and settle / tally all of it online – a feat most of the banks can’t boast of even today. Telecom’s reach is over 10 times that of Indian banking. It has reached most of unbanked Indians in a matter of 10 years – something the banking industry failed to do since last 50 years. The fact that millions of Indians store over a 100 billion rupees at point in time in form of mobile balance shows the trust and faith it has amassed. Need I say more? Indian Telcos are already the best banks that are yet to open shop. This particular one I know is held back in regulatory hurdle – nevertheless it’s worth mentioning it here.
8. Money transfers – India is slowly turning out to be a nation of Nomadic Tribes – every Indian is working out of someplace else these days. From migrants to MBA execs. Sending money back home to paying bills on parent’s behalf – money transfers is a big opportunity, and given that the telcos own the two end points – they already have a head start here over others.
9. Boutique MVNOs - There are so many niche ways in which Indians may want to consumer telecom – but marketers are yet to explore those niches. There could be lifestyle cards, airline co-branded points program, shopping cards, premium niches too – like some customers may want a secretary to attend the calls beforehand etc. I think there’s lot that can be done in this space.
10. Telco as media house – Finally an immediate advertising opportunity. Telcos today print billions of recharge coupons. Millions log in at contact centre and are put on hold to hear boring background music. Telcos also sent out millions of bill inserts every month. And there are obvious medias like SMSs and others. There are thousands of mobile towers that telcos own in vantage locations. We are some sort of small media house with a bouquet of assets lying idle on sidelines. This can be a small business of sorts waiting to be explored– and with mobile screens becoming bigger day by day – who know we could start a newspaper of our own on cell phone one day – who knows?
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Now that the terrorists are done with terrorism – it’s time for us to engage in the business of “being terrorized”. Ironically “being terrorized” is a far bigger enterprise than the terrorism itself. The “being terrorized” industry includes the reporters, the news anchors, the programming crew, the print media, the advertisers who pay for it and YOU the viewer. On the other hand “the industry of terrorism” itself is a small fly by night operation which involves a obscure unfed, unkempt, underpaid resource trying his hand with exploding a bomb or two in the most unguarded territories with no skill and courage whatsoever !
Its spookey that i wrote about a similar incident 18 months back
Here are some plain facts
- Terrorism feeds on the fear of the one who is being terrorized
- It depends greatly on media coverage and the eyeballs who watch it and the advertisers who pay for it
- It is not even top 10 causes of deaths worldwide
In media they say – it (the story) leads if it bleeds. Media loves the high octane human drama involving blood, pain and the saga of human suffering. They are not in it for the high of dramatic reporting – but for the lure of advertising bucks. Shame shame.
But then it gets murkier – there’s someone who is buying this stuff – glued to the TV screen in comforts of the living room– knowing fully well that the likelihood of this happening to him is close to zero… - face it –You are the porn buyer, YOU are the child molester, YOU ARE THE TERRORIST.
The real face behind this ghastly game is YOU.
Think - who is ultimately paying for the non-stop media reporting of terrorist acts via the advertisers? And what could the terrorist achieve without the media coverage – which YOU are indirectly financing? If YOU switch off the TV and stop overreacting to the terrorist threats (remember its not even in top 10 causes of death) the game stops. Yes your heard it right – THE BLOODY GAME STOPS FOR GOOD! Simple huh!
Now we know why terrorists are appearing to be winning in Kashmir – how the struggle continues for 20 years. Who the invisible hands belong to? We ourselves are feeding it via media, advertisers and by being terrorized. We stop and they stop – its as simple.
It’s time we understand that terrorists are using media (and therefore us) as weapons. A random round of gunshot, in some random town which kills less than 0.00001% (less than 100?) of population is not enough to shake the confidence of one billion people unless we contribute to it. And we are.
We must stop unintentionally aiding the terrorist – NOW.
I propose a few things
- Complete private channel blackout of terrorism coverage. State media – like DD – is generally responsible, slow and dull enough to take hype out of the equation. And such coverage will also protect our right to information
- If the above amounts to subversion of media then the private media should be allowed on one condition - no advertiser slots during the terrorist attack coverage. This will force media to avoid giving undue importance to such attacks – and more importantly will avoid reruns of stale images. (Terrorists watching this coverage must be relishing such star status – Additionally such coverage serves as the best recruitment advertisements for terrorist organization. Lets stop that as well.)
- As responsible citizens let’s switch off the TV sets and SHOW repelling behavior towards media which over covers it. They will automatically smell the coffee.
- I advocate strong web / internet filtering of terrorist messages.
- Most importantly public awareness campaign on tv and mass media making citizens aware about how terrorists are using media and mass terror through it to their advantage in this 21st century war.