Mobile Conversations 2011: Examining the 3G effect and decoding mobile advertising

By Ankit Bhatnagar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | June 27, 2011
The panel discussed the effect of 3G technology on advertisers, handset makers, service providers and consumers and also differentiated between mobile and online advertising.

The second session of Mobile Conversations 2011, held in New Delhi on Friday, June 24, 2011 focussed on aligning the mobile ecosystem to enable scaling and better utilisation of 3G technology. Moderator Shailesh Vickram Singh, director, Seedfund, laid the agenda for the session, highlighting the five components of mobile marketing: telecom operators, media companies, advertisers, service providers and consumers.

The panel comprised Srinivas Mothey, associate vice-president, sales, One97 Communications, Arshit Pathak, managing director,(G'Five Mobiles) Kingtech Electronics India, Sameer Pitalwalla, senior vice-president, UTV Interactive and business head, Video Products, and Amitesh Rao, director, brands and media, MTS India.

Starting off with statistics highlighting the vast potential of 3G in mobile telephony in India, Pathak said, "A million 3G-enabled mobile handsets are sold every month in India, out of which 65 per cent are smartphones."

According to Pitalwalla, the data service model is becoming larger and more important from the content creator's point of view.

"From the end-user point of view, content is more important. For us, 3G has made consumption of mobile content better," he said.

Singh highlighted that though innovation in technology has been ahead of users' adoption, brands, operators, service providers and communication agencies need to focus on how consumers use the mobile phone.

Srinivas Mothey of One97 Communications said that though there are 9-10 million active 3G connections in India and 3G is a promising and good word to hear, a lot more needs to be done before the technology harnesses its true potential.

The panel of speakers unanimously agreed that a lot was required from the telecom operators' side. "Service providers haven't rolled out popular 3G applications like video sharing and chat," was the common refrain.

Talking about the challenges the technology faces, Mothey said, "Lack of awareness and knowledge of what's on offer pose as roadblocks for 3G. A lot of free trials are on; connectivity is also a problem across the area."

Stating that India makes for a suitable market for 3G mobile telephony, Pathak said, "3G comes as a default with the smartphones sold in India. About 95 per cent of the Indian market is feature phone market. Unless any technology is mass inclusive, it's not going to work," he said.

Bringing in his views as a telecom operator, Rao of MTS said that a lot of talking can happen around a technology, but for 3G to really work well in India, lessons should be learnt from Japan.

"Japan is a unique market with 90 per cent penetration in 3G. The mobile content and applications are customised around the technology itself, benefiting the customer and the ecosystem alike," he said.

3G offers a lot of promise for video content. Pitalwalla reiterated the fact by saying that video is a subset of data. YouTube India is among the top five in the global markets of the company.

"From the content creators' point of view, the penny will drop when the users can touch, feel and use the technology," he said.

This year, once the network stabilises, nine million more content requirements are going to erupt, he added.

Connectivity was also a well-debated issue. According to Pathak, telecom service providers failed to give the consumers the kind of experience they deserve, not because of handset limitations, but due to connectivity.

Rao, on the other hand, said Indians are different customers than developed markets. "What they primarily do with their mobile phones is talk, send and receive emails and do something additional. As a user, please tell me what 3G can do for me," he asked.

Spelling out the way forward, Srinivas said that service providers should experiment more with 3G because that would pressurise the operators to be more proactive with the technology.

"Do small experiments within the available speed and then see what the response is," he said.

Talking about the possibilities offered by technology, Srinivas said that efforts should be made on how voice-based applications can be moved to more data-based ones and secondly, how a video call can be translated into a brand-integrated property.

Chalking out the finer points revealed during the talk, he said that developments in mobile infrastructure should be operator-led, content should be customised for mobile and connectivity, and pricing should also be taken care of.

Mobile versus online advertising

The third and last session of the day focussed on the importance of differentiating mobile advertising from online advertising.

Moderator Alok Kejriwal started the session with the comment that the mobile phone helped many startups earn their first tranche of revenue.

The panel comprised Sandeep Amar, head, marketing, audience and sales strategy, Times Internet; P R Satheesh, president, TELiBrahma, Sankalp Mehrotra, regional director (South Asia), business development, Affle, and Dinker Charak, vice-president, partnerships and operations, Jivox India.

Kejriwal started off by asking the panel what mobile marketing was. Charak of Jivox India said, "Mobile is just a medium, a technology that enables advertising." According to Mehrotra of Affle, mobile is a different device with entirely different and unique capabilities.

Satheesh of TELiBrahma said that mobile advertising is about building applications, is contextual and has interactivity as its USP.

Amar of Times Internet said that the mobile story was pretty well sold, though he somewhat disagreed on the fact that differentiation was required between mobile and online advertising. To justify his apprehension on mobile advertising being big, Amar cited a recent ComScore study showing that in Japan, around 93 per cent of news was consumed through PCs and not mobile phones.

The panel of speakers unanimously said that there is a need for both brands and advertisers to know what to do with mobile as a medium of advertising and marketing.

"Identify what works for you (as a brand) and go full hog behind it," said Mehrotra.

At the end of the fiercely debated session, which highlighted the importance of mobile as a communication vehicle for the consumer, Kejriwal said, "After the wrist watch, the mobile is the second most scientific invention man carries on his person."

Mobile Conversations 2011 was supported by Navteq Media Solutions, One97 Communications and Jivox India as associate sponsors, ValueFirst as the mobility partner, TNS Global as the knowledge partner and Business Wire India as the official news distribution partner. The telecom portal of afaqs! The Mobile Indian, was the online media partner for the conference.

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