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Indiatimes launches voice-based social networking and blogging platform

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | July 14, 2010
The platform will be called 'HiBuddy', and will initially be offered to Reliance Mobile subscribers

Indiatimes.com has developed a voice-based social networking and blogging platform, called 'HiBuddy', for mobile phone users.

Similar to internet- based social networking sites and blogs, HiBuddy will enable mobile phone users to create their own profile and network of friends, send voice messages and also record their voice posts or clippings, which can be shared with or accessed by other members.

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For this, users will be required to call a number (58888199) and follow the interactive voice response (IVR) system to create their profile, add friends and record voice clips. "Whenever a user posts a new voice clip on his profile or blog, his HiBuddy friends will get an SMS update, which can be followed to listen to the post," an Indiatimes.com spokesperson tells afaqs!.

Apart from social networking and voice blogging, the platform will offer dedicated voice content channels, which will be created by the company. Similar to video channels on video-sharing sites, the voice channels will be a storehouse of voice-clips related to different categories of content. For instance, HiBuddy will have a cookery-related channel, where mobile phone users can listen to voice-clips for different recipes. There will be channels related to jokes, cars and bikes and dating.

Initially, the platform will be made available only to users of Reliance Mobile. Later, it will be accessible with other mobile service providers as well. The platform will also have its online presence, HiBuddy.in, where users can create their profile and access a few other services.

On the business model, the spokesperson says, "Users will have to pay Rs 15 every month as subscription fee and Re 1 per minute as voice charges for accessing HiBuddy." The revenue earned by the mobile operator will be shared with Indiatimes. The spokesperson declined to comment further on the revenue-sharing arrangement. Apart from earning revenue through voice and subscription fees, the company may also explore advertising or offering branded voice-content channels.

In an official communiqué, Rishi Khiani, chief executive officer, Times Internet Limited says, "Social networking and blogging has seen rapid growth in India. This service will extend the growth for mobile phone users. It will allow users to connect to one another in real-time through social interactions on voice, which is a more personal medium."

However, this is not the first voice-based social networking and blogging service available on mobile phones in India. Singapore-based Bubble Motion already offers a similar service, Bubbly, in the country. Bubbly is a fusion of micro-blogging in the voice format and social networking on mobile. Bubble Motion has tied up with a few mobile operators, such as Airtel, for its service. BBC News has also adopted Bubbly to broadcast its content to mobile users in India.