Posts filed under '4G'

Mobile drives the Spark in Startups (notes from MobileSparks conference)

Shradha Sharma of Yourstory.com asks the Startup community to maintain that Spark, regardless of where one is in the journey of life. That Spark may be humility or grace, appreciation for others, lending a helping hand etc. Essentially the point she made, and very well so, that in our “Rat Race” for success in life, perhaps we might have forgotten the more human elements, things which bind us together and a feeling of elevation. Shradha was speaking at the recent YourStory event Mobile Sparks in Bangalore.

I couldn’t agree more. In our quest for success, perhaps we might have forgotten to remember some old friends, or forgot the fact that a good night sleep is more worthwile than achieving a Unicorn status. Big statement, but I insist.

I think the subject is about balance. Nobody is saying that one must give up on one’s dreams. But it must not drive consternation to a level that one forgets the basics of humanity – a desire to do good, be kind, have a positive impact and effect larger good. As many have said, a Startup needs to have an objective larger than valuation, or a profit or loss statement. It is about “value creation” at the end of the day, to quote my friend Manish.

Ok, with that, I come back to the startup notes. The recently concluded event MobileSparks by Yourstory had some great speakers from most of the leading firms – Flipkart, Snapdeal, Grofers, Practo, OYO Rooms, Peppertap, SAIF partners, Inventus, Matrix Partners etc.

Here are some sundry highlights from this event :

Freecharge – Initial adoption strategy – Make first transaction brag-worthy. Eg give away a burger for first recharge.
App installs is not a good metric. Transactions is good metric.

OYO rooms
OYO is envisioning a future of amazing hotel experience. Some potential ideas :
- Manages entire hotel experience.
- App – does booking. Shows nearby restaurants, gets you cab with Ola cab widget,
- Ops team does background audit regularly of hotels
- Alerts – eg room 345 not audited since last three weeks or 5 acs in a hotel broke down
- Correlation between auditor reports and customer feedback audits auditors themselves
- If AC is broken open ticket to get electrician automatically
- Pre-check in from airport. Submit ID card picture before even you reach.
- Could alert property manager that customer is about to reach.
- Mobile key to door
- Reminder to turn on AC or heater from before. Mobile can store customer temperature preference.
- Connect to WiFi automatically.
- Mobile motion sensors based DND (do not disturb). Check if person is sleeping and motionless.
- Checkout from app. Pay from mobile wallet. Feedback on the go on app.

Matrix partners (VC) :-
App distribution -
- Inmobi ads, AdMob, Adwords
- OEMS like micromax lava etc
- App stores.
- Facebook ads
- Google ads
- App Store optimisation or ASO

Lybrate :-
Online consultation app for patients and doctors
- Very less doctors in India compared to patients.
- X axis :- Online, offline
Y axis :-
Discovery – find practitioners
Transaction – create transaction
Delivery – participate in delivery or actual doctor patient communication / consultation
Lybrate is in online healthcare delivery space.
- Got doctors first ie supply first. Then demand ie consumers etc.
- Need hooks on supply side to hold doctors while demand builds up.
Opportunities :-
- Lot has happened in discovery already.
- Transaction and delivery side is left. Healthcare devices can be used. Consumer hardware is big area.
- 70 million diabetes patients in India. Devices for them.
- Revenue model – online consultation commission from user – 5% to 15% of doctor fee.

Flipkart :-
Piyush Ranjan. SVP. Flipkart.
Key idea :- Build a Cathedral. Not walls or bricks.
Eg -
Build for phones with no data. SMS or USSD as underlying protocols. Also phone to phone connection.
Eg -
Reliability is in short supply. Eg IRCTC is not reliable.
Eg -
Build for the low end.
Eg -
Building speed as a feature. Eg google suggest and google instant.
Eg -
A broad base need like education.
So far mostly online classrooms. But how about continuous learning which mimics human whole life ?

Practo
healthcare app for doctors and patients.
Started web-only in 2008. Mobile first now.
Mobile search -
2 lakh doctors
2x non metros
3x conversions
3x engagement
Weekend traffic
UGC declined in mobile though compared to web. Consumers write smaller reviews on mobile compared to web. Struggling with this now.

Practo ray
40000 doctors
2x appnts
3x records
3x engagements

Practo tab
Helps in locking in supply
20% richer data

Practo
10 million searches

Snapdeal
Anand Chandrasekaran, Chief Product Officer
- 19 m registered users
- 1.5 L sellers (I am told less than 10000 are active, more on this in a later post)
- wants to achieve 10L sellers in few years (how many will be active ?)
- 5m daily active users
- Freecharge – 2 out of 3 visitors end up transacting

Other ideas that were discussed :
125 million English speaking Indians. Leaves a billion non-English users. Need to tackle them.
300 million internet users in India currently. To grow to half billion internet users in 2-3 years. Mostly via Mobile Web.

 

Add comment August 10th, 2015

World’s First Firefox OS Smartphone Released In Spain

Though having Google’s Android and Apple’s IOS hitting the market with their name, quality, value and functionality, Telefonica has launched a new Firefox OS Smartphone in the market jointly with Mozilla and ZTE. Telephonica is Spain based telecommunication and broadband service provider in Europe, Latin America and Asia and 5th largest mobile network provider in the world; Mozilla, a open source project by Netscape Communications Corporation, launched the Mozilla Firefox browser and now developed Firefox OS for the Smartphone; ZTE Corporation, China based multinational telecommunication equipment and systems company, the 4th largest mobile manufacturer in the world, has developed this Smartphone’s design.

The above trio has launched world’s first Smartphone, ZTE Open, with Firefox Operating System in Spain for 69Euros(90Dollars) and soon be launched in Latin America.  As per the statement by Carlos Domingo, Chief Product Development, Telephonica, in one conference, this device would be mainly  be for youngsters and those who are new to use the Smartphones.

Equipped with a 3.5-inch & 480x320pixels touchscreen, includes a 3.2MP camera(back), 256MB RAM and 512MB flash memory enhanced with a 4GB MicroSD card that comes as part of the package.

The ZTE Open is fully integrated with Facebook and the Spain-based social network Tuenti and talks are on about incorporating the WhatsApp instant messaging service, Telefonica said.

Mozilla executives said the ZTE Open is the “first chapter” in what they expect to be a long project, one that is already attracting interest from many other telecommunications companies.

 

Excerpts – Techgig

July 3rd, 2013

Facebook not quite “Home” yet on mobile phones

Apparently, Facebook “Home” is not to be, not yet at least.

The Android application launched by Facebook to create an FB overlay on the Home screen of the phone was supposed to be the big bet by FB to control the first touchpoint screen for a smartphone user. But due to poor reviews by initial analysts, Facebook is said to be revamping the FB Home application. The device which was supposed to launch this was HTC One and in US, AT&T was to be the exclusive carrier for this. In UK, operator EE and Orange were planning to launch it. The social network is said to be encouraging the carriers to delay the launch to give the firm more time to create a more palatable user experience.

The battle for the phone user is becoming more intense as time goes by. With smartphones overtaking web users globally, it is of paramount importance for tech firms to own the phone customer and drive more and more smartphone traffic to these firms’ offerings, in order to attract ad revenue and other commerce monetizations.

Without a doubt, Facebook social network application remains one of the top apps on all mobile systems including Apple iOS and Android. But Google, Facebook, wireless carriers and other media are jostling for more and more of user attention on phones as well as real estate on the limited phone screen, which are the next evolution of internet cycle.

Facebook released the following statement on Thursday evening via Engadget: “Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customization features to Facebook Home over the coming months. While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision. Rest assured, we remain committed to bringing our customers the latest mobile experiences, and we will continue to build on our strong relationship with Facebook so as to offer customers new opportunities in the future.”

htc-first-2

HTC First aka “Facebook Phone”  (Photo: Courtesy / HTC)

After extremely disappointing sales of the HTC First, Facebook will reexamine the Facebook Home before expanding its operating system to more phones in more countries.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he would’ve rebuilt Facebook as a mobile exclusive app if he had the chance, so clearly offering a solid mobile experience means a great deal to Facebook. In this regard, the Facebook phone was a brilliant idea and makes a great deal of sense — like Google and Android, a true Facebook phone would allow Zuckerberg & Co. to have complete control over the user experience and ad strategy. The HTC First was the company’s first attempt at such a device — Facebook would focus on software while HTC would focus on hardware — but with the phone failing so soon after its initial release, Facebook will need to take a long look in the mirror. 

Failure of the HTC First may be blamed on Facebook’s decision to make Facebook Home features too accessible to other mobile users on Android and iOS, or maybe Facebook will realize that the Facebook Home features were not that stellar to begin with.

Facebook has fumbled on mobile before, when it launched it’s first mobile site using the mobile browser channel – with poor user feedback on that approach, Facebook later changed course and focused on more cleaner mobile apps, but this was much later in it’s lifecycle; Facebook mobile has a history of bouncing back. The early years of Facebook mobile efforts were limited to working on a common mobile website version of it’s platform addressing multiple platforms like iOS and Android with one approach. It later realized that that approach did not augur well and got into building platform specific Facebook apps, which have been superb hits since.

The last note above take one back to mobile site vs mobile app debate, which continues to simmer in the mobile development world. So far, it seems, the Apps are winning with many firms (eg Financial Times) having switched from a common http://m.xyz-firm.com approach to custom mobile apps for each mobile platform. More on this later in this space.

(with extracts and ideas from International Business Times article dated May 24 by Dave Smith)

May 26th, 2013

Day 1 News from International CES 2013 (Consumer Electronics Show), Las Vegas

At the outset, we would like to wish a Very Happy New Year to our readers and Thank You for your continued patronage of CellStrat content. This is the first post of this year and starts with lot of hopes and aspirations for our readers and ourselves in the Year 2013.

As is customary each year, the year kicks off with the massive Consumer Electronics Show or CES in Las Vegas. We are glad to report from the ground there (well, just kidding) – we are hooked to the internet and getting minute by minute news feed from the ground so it is same as being there physically (almost).

Today was the first major day of CES. Some notable news from CES :

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs opens the event with the “Born Mobile” mantra

Every year, either Bill Gates or Steve Balmer provide the opening keynote at CES but this year it was taken by Qualcomm CEO, a pre-dominantly mobile chip firm. This highlights the importance of Mobile to all things electronic now. With smarter devices and smarter everything, mobile chips are in almost everything we see in the future right from home appliances to mobile devices to industrial equipment, as well as most automotive assets like cars, trucks and containers.

Paul Jacobs explained his “Born Mobile” mantra today and there was a surprise when Steve Ballmer joined him on stage briefly – Paul said that even Microsoft has adopted the Born Mobile mantra. Paul launched Qaulcomm’s new Snapdragon 800 processors, which are the fastest mobile processors on earth as per him. These chips are about 75% faster than previous processors and can deliver HD video seamlessly as well as support Ultra HD television.

Sony launches new signature smartphones

Sony launched new Xperia Z Android smartphones, which have a five-inch screen, HD 1080p Reality Display and 13 megapixel camera. It is powered by a Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon processor. What was unique is the new One Touch functionality that allows the device to wirelessly interact with other Sony devices such as speakers, headphones and TVs. Sony showcased a new Bravia TV which can display the phone content from the new smartphones if the phone is tapped to the TV remote.

Intel launches new smartphone chip family

Intel launched new chips for smartphones and tablets at CES today. Intel has been late to the mobile party and struggled againts ARM Holding and Qualcomm in this space. Now it is trying to get its mobile act together with an array of new smartphone and tablet chips.

The company’s new Atom processors which are in the next-gen category will be available in 2013 holiday period. The new chips assume Touch based interface as a key aspect of the functionality.

Samsung brings smartphone experience to it’s TVs

Samsung announced seamless integration between its smartphones and Smart TVs. The phone functionality of Touch and Speech recognition will be made available in Smart TVs. Samsung is probably the biggest success story of 2012 and has taken market share in almost all categories.

AT&T focuses on Digital Life and Project VIP

AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega showcased the new Digital Life offering which falls in the Connected Devices or M2M category. This solution involves a Connected Home and Security apparatus and applications with remote management and monitoring of the Home by consumers and home owners. Glenn Lurie, head of AT&T’s Connected Devices business said, that less than 20% of US homes have security and less than 1% homes have home automation.

AT&T is pioneering the M2M space and a global leader in evolving and maturing M2M business models around Home and Security.

AT&T also announced APIs for developers to provide advanced call management applications – these probably use the IMS or IP Multimedia Subsystem interface to the wireless network.

AT&T also announced its intentions to deploy its new LTE network to 300 million people by end-2014. Currently, AT&T’s LTE network reaches 170 million people in USA which places it in second ranking behind Verizon in LTE deployments.

Project VIP (Velocity IP) is AT&T’s new $14 billion investment initiative to focus on LTE, Connected Home and other emerging areas.

Other news

Other news at CES today included LG announcing special emphasis on NFC as a linking tech to link all its products and providing an ability to put all these devices on the Connected Grid for remote management and control, Nvidia launching the world’s fastest mobile processor (as per its claims at least) and NTT Docomo launching a new M2M platform for global service providers using Jasper Wireless platform.

If one were to summarize, this year’s main themes seem to be Smarter and Faster Mobile Chips, Connectedness, Smart Devices, Digital Television etc. Let’s see what the remaining days of CES offer. We are watching the news in excitement about the up and coming technologies at this event. To get full coverage on this event, visit the event website here.

January 8th, 2013

Map wars

Since the launch of Apple iOS 6, one is seeing major activity in the world of Digital Maps. Both Apple and Google have been duking it out recently on this front. Before the iOS 6 was released, Google Maps was the default map application installed on the iPhones. But map application in recent times has become perhaps the most popular mobile app and hence substantial customer engagement and media sales get initiated with the map experience. The primary fruits of iPhone mapping app were being enjoyed by Google, until iOS 6 came along. With iOS 6 and iPhone 5, Apple decided to take the Map app internal and worked on Apple Maps for this version of iOS, thereby dropping Google Maps as the default Map app on the new iPhone.

In it’s haste to release the Map App along with iOS 6 launch, Apple mapping team seemed to compromise on reliability and accuracy in Apple Maps. The error proved deadly, as the Apple Maps app was widely criticized after iOS 6 was launched, being that rest of the iOS 6 as well as iPhone 5 was much appreciated. Apple Map Apps shows incorrect placement of landmarks and is frustrating mobile users around the world who rely on smartphone maps to guide them around cities.

This resulted in Tim Cook of Apple issuing an apology to Apple customers. Google, with a guilty pleasure, enjoyed the Apple Map criticism. Google has since announced that they are working on a custom Google Maps app for the iOS 6 platform. It is expected to come out before the end of the year.

Why are Map Apps such a big deal after all ? In an App survey conducted by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta, Google Maps was rated as the most popular mobile app. That means that navigation and directions via smartphone maps has become the most key use of these phones. One knew that Mapping Apps were popular and widely used, but who would have guessed that Map App is “the” most popular mobile app out there. Especially Google Maps. Obviously, smartphone users really use this app in their daily movements.

Maps are also used for the most cutting-edge of phone applications, that is Location-Based Services or LBS. LBS refers to finding businesses nearby and guiding customer traffic to those businesses. LBS also enables local advertising and shopping. LBS is key aspect of SoLoMo – Social Local Mobile – a concept referring to convergence between local commerce, mobile phones and social shopping.

Maps also facilitate searches now – Search is more relevant if locational aspects are added to it. Search Advertising has been a revolutionary concept and LBS makes Search even more relevant.

When the iOS 6 Apple Maps app faced ridicule, Tim Cook suggested that iPhone customers download Bing or other Map Apps from App Store. Google, of course, had not planned a iOS 6 compatible Map app, until it realized that iPhone users were clamoring for the Google version, after having experienced the cloogy Apple Map App. Apple Map flap has caused many a casualty at Apple office – with many execs including one of the most senior execs, Scott Forstall, being asked to leave. Just today, Apple fired another manager in charge of Map App.

With the Apple Map app mess, other mapping programs have gained eg Embark and Bing Maps.

Mapping wars are front and centre in the smartphone evolution, the various map providers need to check their coordinates in this new war.

November 29th, 2012

CMO is the new CIO

Recently I am hearing a lot about the fact that the IT budgets are increasing coming from the CMO department. Indeed “CMO is the new CIO”. Why this trend ? Reasons are manifold :

a) Customer touchpoint is the new focus : Customer touchpoint is where the action is now. Whether it is Customer Engagement, Customer Service, Customer Access or anything to do with orchestrating these, these are the hot topics now for enterprises large and small. This essentially means mobile devices, mobile apps, social, local, cloud, analytics etc. To be more specific, the big themes now are Mobile, Social, Cloud and Analytics – all that relate to customer facing technology or orchestrating the customer experience.

Who owns the customer experience – it is the Marketing office and not really the CIO office.

b) Image and Branding : In this world awash with media and content, image is everything. Social and Digital Media are increasingly commanding higher order of CXO focus and budgets. It is now possible for unknown brands and firms to accelerate their visibility overnight via a variety of Social and Digital channels. Traditional firms often find themselves late to this party or reacting to their customers who are already present enmasse on these Digital Channels. Simple 140 character tweets can embarass monstrous corporations in matter of seconds. Image and Branding on new media has become a herculean challenge for large firms and leveled the playing field for consumers, smaller firms and startups.

Who controls a firm’s image and branding, CMO again. So CMO will drive investments in Social and Digital technology which is increasingly important to firms’s reputation and respect in the marketplace.

c) Backend infra is mature : Increasingly, one finds that backend infrastructure in traditional IT departments is mature – the big bang Oracle, SAP and middleware projects are stable and it is increasingly hard to find those big ticket IT projects now. Most of the transformational IT is now happening at customer edge and not in backend tech or networks. Of course, there are exceptions, like 4G and LTE investments by wireless industry and Big Data projects to slice and dice the voluminous data banks that now exist.

However, save for a few big items on backend, backend tech is now mature and even Oracles and SAPs of the world are now developing products for the front-end, where the growth multiples seem better going forward. The customer front-end, of course, is owned by the CMO and not the CIO.

d) Emergence of new tech : Web 2.0 is now being replaced by Web 3.0 – a world of seamless mobility, applications, and front-end use cases. Mobile Payments, Mobile Media, Mobile Devices, SME Cloud Apps, Social Networks, Location Services, hyperlocal marketing are the big glamour areas of tech now where most developers and firms want to focus their energy now. Apple may have started the trend of massive consumer revolution when it created the iPhone, Amazon has brought Web services to SMEs on a massive scale, Google is innovating in search and platforms, Facebook has amassed the largest number of eyeballs around the world. These kind of firms are at the forefront of consumer revolution in tech devices and applications.

Again, tackling this world is in the primary perview of the CMO with it’s mobile strategy, social and digital technology, connected consumer and advertising.

e) Consumerization of IT or COIT : COIT is a popular term now – where consumers walk in into the workplace with their consumer devices and force the CIO to adopt to their devices and apps rather than the other way round. The concept of a Social Enterprise is being adopted by all large firms to drive employee engagement, mindshare and collaboration. Gen Y employees are forcing their employers to change their ways and business practices to make these corporations employee oriented. Talent crunch is forcing firms to adapt to the employees wishes rather than the other way round. Hyper-informed customers are, in turn, pressurizing companies to provide relevant product information and fantastic customer service.

Certainly, CMO is the consumer and people expert and not the CIO. Most of the COIT trends require CMO to play a key role in the tech strategy.

To be sure, the CIO is not going anywhere and remains the bulwark of operational infrastructure and execution framework within the firms. The tech jazz (and related budgets), however, are now owned by the CMO due the macro trends outlined above. Indeed, CMO is the new CIO in the tech world.

September 24th, 2012

Apple iPhone 5 is here : CellStrat opinion

As if you have not heard enough about iPhone 5 already, here is more of it :)

Apple announced iPhone 5 on Sept 12th. The other big thing that happened that day was Quantitative Easing version 3 announcement by US Federal Reserve – one wonders, it was a synchronized announcement – just kidding.. Certainly, some market analysts have said that iPhone 5 may do more for US GDP growth than Fed’s QE3..amazing..

Well, intentional or not, both the announcements have a dramatic impacts – QE3 will accelerate the stock market rise around the world, fuel more inflation etc. Apple announcement will lead to Apple maintaining it’s hegemony in the smartphone ecosystem. I know, I know, some of you are on side of the table which is less than enamoured by the new iPhone 5. However, our take is that the ecosystem of Apple is much too strong and still underestimated by most. The vertical integration of iTunes, Macs, iPhones, iPads, licensed content in there, seamless charging via iTunes, cross-device synch capabilities are so intense and so transformational in the tech world, that few can match up with Apple prowess over the marketplace. Apple ran out of online inventory of iPhone 5 in one hour of opening the sales..validation enough of a huge pent-up demand out there.

Lack of NFC or some other popular features, now commonplace in other smartphones, will not deter iPhone 5 in creating breakthrough success once again for Apple sales. What most people fail to realize about Apple is that it does not usually toe the line created by others – it creates new models which, in many cases, become the benchmark over time. Coming back to NFC, Apple did bundle a feature called Passbook in the new iPhone 5 – a loyalty and coupon management feature – this is not payment enabled but it could evolve into a Digital Wallet. Many leaders like eBay, Square, Paypal are making do without NFC in Mobile Payments and quite successfully at that. It is likely that NFC may never become the mainstream mobile payment tech if Apple and others listed here do not push it.

As to what Apple iPhone 5 does pack, it has a laundry list of neat features :

LTE (4G capable), Thinner, Lighter, bigger screen (4 inch diagonally), all new Apple-designed A6 chip, better retina display, improved camera (although megapixels remain at 8 megs), enhanced HD video recording, 5 rows of icons on the screen, improved Siri assistant, new lightning connector, new Apple mapping app, better iCloud integration, 700,000 apps, new iOS 6 OS, Passbook loyalty feature, the list goes on and on.

To view all iPhone 5 features, click here.

As far as we can visualize, we still feel demand for iPhone 5 will be back-logged and people will go gaga over this device the world over. Apple mobile leadership is far from being threatened, not until they make major blunders or others truly can provide a neat vertically integrated ecosystem. So far, we see only Amazon as being anywhere close to providing the vertical ecosystem with Kindle platform. Samsung tried but it is missing many major components for creating a complete ecosystem, music partnerships to begin with, among other things. Google does not try as their focus is entirely different – to monetize via search engines on Android devices.

So – for now, it is Apple’s world to rule in the mobile arena, until somebody else “does an Apple” on them.

September 17th, 2012

Mobile Device Parade looms this week

This week, we watch in excitement as a mobile device parade looms from leading device makers. Motorola, Nokia and Amazon are all expected to announce new devices ahead of Apple’s iPhone5 announcement next week.

Motorola is bringing out a Droid Razr smartphone, which amounts to revival of the Razr brand, which Motorola sold successfully for many years before smartphones stormed the markets. Motorola, now owned by Google, has been a struggler in the last few years, and none of its smartphones have caught the fancy of the consumers yet, so far.

Nokia is announcing new Windows 8 phones – Windows 8 phone OS is the prelude to the Windows 8 desktop OS to be announced by Microsoft later this year. Windows 8 is supposed to work seamlessly across PCs, phones and tablets. Nokia’s Windows OS, so far, as been lackluster. Windows Phone OS has only 3% market share in the smartphone market compared to 64% Android share and 18% Apple iOS share.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is set to announce the next version of Kindle Fire at an event on Thursday. Kindle Fire’s last version has reportedly sold out, as per Amazon, one is sure these device makers produce such products in limited quantity to create the marketing effect of a device in short supply. But certainly, after the iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire is the most successful tablet so far.

Then comes the big brother Apple on Sept 12th, with its reported iPhone5 launch.

While we feel that Apple is the mover and shaker of the mobile smartphone business with bulk of app and device profits as well, sometimes one wonders if the Android market share of 64% vs iPhone OS market share of 18% bodes well for Apple or not. No wonder, Apple is spending millions in it’s lawsuits against the Android device makers like Samsung.

Samsung had recently released the Galaxy Note 10 inch version – Galaxy Note has been a runaway success for Samsung as was the case for Galaxy smartphones.

Device wars are heating up and it can only get better for consumers the world over.

September 4th, 2012

Mobile Payments dogfight

Recently, we heard that Starbucks – the behemoth in coffee retailing business, invested in Square – the American Mobile Payment startup; as well Starbucks stores will be accepting payments via Square mobile app. Starbucks already had their mobile wallet solution and had seen a record number of transactions via this platform, wherein the customers would just wave the starbuck app barcode on their smarphones in front of a reader in a Starbuck store and the amount gets deducted from the user’s Starbucks mobile wallet.

Now Starbucks is betting on Square – that zingy startup which has attracted tons of VC money from big name investors. Starbucks buyin gives Square the credibility that is needed by the tech firm to sell into big name retail. So far Square app was popular for mobile payments, but primarily limited to thousands of small businesses which had adopted this solution. Starbucks approval puts Square square and centre in the Mobile payment contender space – along with the traditional digital payment firm Paypal. Paypal has been experimenting with Mobile Payments for sometime now and has the backing of millions of consumers and merchants who use Paypal daily for moving around money online.

Paypal, in turn, announced a partnership with Discover Card financial services, Paypal mobile app will mediate a Discover payment in select stores. Discover is the smallest of the 4 big Credit Card vendors in United States. Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards are working on their own mobile payment solutions or partnering with other internet and telco players. Discover is relying on Paypal to carry the smaller card vendor into the Mobile payments vertical (although Discover works in Mobile Payments via telco partnerships as well).

It seems like a dogfight between Square and Paypal has begin to try to dominate this upcoming area. Although there are other heavyweights in the ring – namely, ISIS (telecom carrier joint venture), Google Wallet, Apple potentially, banks and some others. It would be interesting to see what tricks Apple has up it’s sleeve. Apple is a killer firm which, when it enters a market, comes up with such innovations that few are able to compete with it.

The Mobile Payments space is fragmented and there is no clear winner or dominant player yet. The complexity in financial regulation and the difficulty in scaling this business over a large number of merchants has kept this area into the hobby domain so far. As it seems, it seems to be breaking out now with some startups and large firms making aggressive moves to create a market in this now. We watch this space with keen interest.

As far as India goes, there are local startups who have tried to tackle this space – firms like ngpay, paytm, obopay and some others. But most are still small and captive scale is not there yet. Many of these firms have survived in India by doing things other than Mobile payments. Eg Ngpay has become a mobile shopping mall, PayTM has gotten into recharge business and so on.

August 23rd, 2012

Notes from TIE Bangalore Seminar on Mobile App Monetisation

(from our Bangalore desk)

This week I attended a seminar organized by TIE Bangalore on the topic of Mobile App Monetization. This is a vexing problem which has bedeviled most Mobile Apps developers around the world. Problems of app discovery, app marketing, too many apps, app development fatigue are well known.

This was an interesting panel discussion sponsored by Qualcomm Ventures. The speaker lineup was top-notch and included the following speakers :

  • Karthee Madasamy, Sr. Director, India and Israel, Qualcomm Ventures
  • Manik Arora, Founder & Managing Director, IDG Ventures India
  • B. Vamshi Reddy, Co-Founder & CEO, Apalya Technologies
  • Rahul Chowdhri, Director, Helion Venture Capital
  • Suresh Narasimha, Founder & CEO, TELiBrahma Convergent Communications
  • V. V. Ravindra, Managing Director, Idea Brahma

The discussion was riveting and inspiring with this star speaker lineup. Below are the key points of discussion from this seminar :

Karthee’s keynote :

  • Globally, there exist 6 billion wireless connections now out of which 1.6 billion are 3G connections. This number is expected to swell to 3.1 billion 3G connections by 2015. Also, by 2015, emerging markets will contribute 50% of smartphone market share.
  • A smartphone is now a full blown computing device. A smartphone now embeds more and more electronic functions like camera, GPS, watch etc. Tight silicon integration is driving this trend. Mobile processors now offering full windows experience Eg Windows 8 may run on the same processor has as the Windows 8 phone.
  • As to India, in 2012, 200 million phones are expected to be sold in India. By 2015, 300 million phones will be sold in India. Smartphone sales will multiply by 4 times in India by 2015, compared to now. At the same time, the costs of high-end smartphones keep falling.
  • Another great trend is that of the rise of mobile broadband users in India. Today, there are 52 million active users in India. 42% Facebook users in India are mobile users. India has 37 million 3G HSPA users today.
  • India is very interesting in that, here, a phone is the first computer for a user, it is often the first camera as well as it is the first gaming device a person might have.
  • India has a huge amount of mobile opportunity. In fact, for India, mobile may be the only primary computing device which a huge amount of users might have.
  • 3G tariffs have dropped drastically in India. India is one of the cheapest 3G markets now, anywhere.
  • There was a time when there were hardly any Indian-brand devices. Now India has seen several homegrown device brands – who have increased market share using innovative strategies like dual SIM or Tier 2 market penetration. Indian brands like Micromax and Lava now own 20-30% of the market in India.
  • There are too many apps now and app fatigue exists, however good apps can still see a bright future.

Karthee also mentioned about the Qualcomm program to find successful startup models – this program is called the QPrize and it has total 1 million USD available in prize finding. One of the previous QPrize winner has been Capillary Tech.

Question : Is mobile apps just extension of VAS ?

Vamshi – Apps are to engage and entertain customers as far as Service Provider is concerned. Monetization of Apps, however, does have a VAS feel in India.

Suresh – TeliBrahma had decided early on not to work with operators and focus on domestic markets, however it is now trying to work with operators and is also marketing abroad. Advertising is a tough market. Need a billion impressions to make 1 million dollars.

Rahul – Their firm is concious that VAS market is challenging. As to working with carriers, it is a country specific issue and mostly an Indian problem. Mobile payments is a tough business to crack (but one of Helion investments ngpay has succeeded after some efforts). App monetization is generally difficult, somehow apps have to go local to add value. B2B2C seems to be a monetization model so far.

Question : How to make money on apps ?

Ravindra – To make money, need persistence. Positioning is important. For mHealth, doctors have to be targeted. App Store is not a good model – need to go through B2B channel eg via clinics or other healthcare firms. Selling via B2B2C seems only viable option in India to make money so far.

Vamshi – Apalya is selling via operators and direct to consumers also now. Collecting money today is via operators – that is one of rare ways to collect money. Apart from that, app monetization is very hard. Sheer persistence is key to get to inflection point in environment. Collection agent today is service provider. Another model – Vodafone is trying to act as change agent and willing to take only 30% app revenue share
similar to the app stores. Discovery thru app stores etc is hard.

Manik – with app stores, mobile social networking or mobile travel firms are hot again. Mobile is anytime anywhere location-based experience. Internet penetration is low but mobile penetrations is high. Especially, targeting tier two cities and local language support can help.

Social networks in India and search are in India are not promising as global guys do this. Mobile Commerce or m-Commerce requires local people, and hence is promising.

Angry bird started with a Finnish operator first, and then reached scale. And then Apple accepted them.

Rahul – ngpay – primary monetization is via payments. It has been difficult for ngpay in the beginning. Making money directly from end users is hard but possible.

Question : Paid apps vs ad-based apps?

Suresh – brand advertising is interesting but it is not easy. Eg Angry Birds became success after Rovio had tried many other apps. Mobile CPMs are too low compared to web CPMs. Mobile ad based revenue is not a viable model. White label apps do not work as IP gets transferred to the customer.

Manik – has a mobile advertising firm-vserv – in app advertising. It is early days for sure. if a firm has a little bit success, need to promote that. Eg Angry Birds. Long tail for mobile advertising in India is quite long. Only two media agencies in India have a dedicated mobile guy. Digital ad budgets will double at least in the next few years. But next growth has to come from mobile. Clearly there is a shift in positioning.

India has 900 million subscribers. So critical mass is there. Vserv has 60 million addressable users.

Vamshi – Angry birds focused on viral marketing.

Ravindra – India is about sheer size. Just smartphones are 15 million.

Rahul – invested in Dhingana. If one has a single app firm, need to have a deep app. Stay in low burn mode. Show engagement. Dhingana is radio ad market as radio has 100s of crores in ad revenue

Predictions :-

Manik – IDG is bottom up firm. Sees app opportunities in :

1) Infrastructure and enablers – eg advertising , security, discovery
2) enterprise mobility – still very new in India
3) cool movie movie hits type approach

Rahul –

1) B2B2C model is promising, that is hwere mobile and tablets are interchangeably used.
2) LBS services can be interesting
3) Global markets are promising

Karthee – Tablets are interesting – have a larger screen.

Vamshi – tablets market is still very small.

Suresh – tablets are promising. Eg winstores on tablets. Tablet will be bigger than PC at some point.

Ravindra – very bullish on tablet growth. Everybody knows tablets now and people understand their use now. People see PC replacement to a large extent. Clinics are good use cases for tablets. As doctors and radiologists are small compared to population, healthcare sector needs productivity improvements using mobile devices.

August 16th, 2012

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