Posts tagged 'Mobile Marketing'

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

Business Development Plan : Do’s And Don’ts

By – Prof. Nandini Vaidyanathan – Founder & Mentor @ Carma Venture Pvt Ltd. Date – 10th May, 2013

Prof. Nandini has worked for many MNC’s for almost 20 years, within many domains and fields, she’s Board of several companies, Mentor & Promoter of Startup(forstartups.blogspot.com), India’s leading Strategist in management. She has even been a Teaching Entrepreneur in US, UK Premier Business School, Princeton, IIM-B, etc, etc, etc. If I still continue to introduce her, then I think I’ll just end up with her intro itself.

The webinar was awesome, never got so many meaningful and important things to learn just within 2 hours. Prof. Nandini was clear and sound, very straight to her points that were to be conveyed to the audience. So let’s get to her talks about Business Development Plan, I’ll narrate point wise:-

What is a Business Plan ?
“A Business Plan is nothing but your Wishlist that you want within specified period of time, anyhow. Make sure Entrepreneurship and Wishlist goes hand-in-hand.”

  1. If you are a new Entrepreneur, forget everything else and first approach to get Mentorship from a good Mentor, without which you may have very less chance to survive for long.
  2. Don’t ever write a plan just because you’re very eager or desperate to start a business or to attract an investor. Write a plan to capture an vision and fulfill your Wishlist.
  3. Don’t do copy-paste in your business plan, don’t come with a plan and say currently this is there in the market and we can do the same in an efficient way, never think of it. Your plan has a product, if someone sells this product to you then how much you’ll spend from your pocket? The more the price figure comes, the stronger your plan is…!
  4. Don’t make a business plan that has monopoly kind of business, research for the competitors and make a plan that defers from them. No one can win without competitors, if you don’t have competitors what you’ll compare & with whom you’ll compare, they’re the one who’ll point out your defects. Eg- Imagine everyone in the world with Mercedes Benz…!
  5. Don’t ask or refer your business plan to any of your friends, family members or relatives, they’ll support you because they wanna see you happy, they’ll speak what you want to hear. Eg. Hitler asked his Army Chief during war, “What’s our status?”. Chief:”We are going to win”. Ultimately Germany got defeated. Hitler:”Why you lied to me?”. Chief:”That’s the thing you always wanted to heat from us…!”
  6. Equity is Entrepreneur’s Blood, don’t plan to donate it at very early stage. Don’t let anyone rule over you, your team and your org. at an early stage. If you still need to raise funding at early stage, don’t look for Venture Capitalist, look Strategic investor. Never divide your Equity in 1:1, keep at least 51:49 ratio to make good future decisions in an easier way.
  7. Don’t consider that market is easy to cover with your awesome product, you are still a Starfish and Big Whales are already roaming there in the market. Have a point in your business plan that how your product will change, influence and grow the market. Get a Differentiator in your plan.
  8. Differentiator in plan can’t always be only in ideas, it can be in Execution too. Eg. Lays Vs. Bingo. Lays introduces itself in market flavours by flavours whereas Bingo introduced by 12 various flavours. They say every Bingo retailer in the market will have at least 12 packets…! Whatever Differentiator you have, it should be very unique and innovative.
  9. Market research is very important to get boom into the market. Eg. Kurkure researched that most of them want snacks while working on computers, so they introduced Kurkure in Cyber Cafe’s initially and boomed the market.
  10. Have your idea feasible, scalable and profitable. You should plan for innovation but not at that extent that it becomes hard to implement. It should be profitable, it you can’t take out profit from your idea, then just generate it. If one is not interested in generating the profit, then tell him to book his/her domain as .org instead of any other.
  11. During hiring process decide you want, a cat or a camel, because later you can’t expect them to change as per your expectation. Even if you get your cat, decide you want which specific cat- big, small, fat,etc. If you can groom your employee, you’re intelligent Entrepreneur, if you can’t (most of them) then deal with them.
  12. Discuss your plan with every employee, you know the plan very well because its your baby, but do your team know the plan? Does your team know what are your dreams and for what they are working? If you make your employees to work for the salary, they won’t deliver you your expectations, because they don’t know actually.
  13. Use simple English to communicate, simplify the high-tech and jargon words so that every one gets your idea thoroughly.
  14. Don’t chose Co-founders like tomatoes and potatoes. Every Co-founder should have complementary skill set. All should want same thing from the company. All should share same value.
  15. Best point to raise fund is when you don’t need it, that will make you stand above the VC’s. Raise funds only and as per your requirement, if you go for more than your requirement, you may lose control over your expenditure.

Elements Of Business Plan:-

  1. Have a snapshot summary; its easy to read index page than 1000 pages of a novel.
  2. Product and Customer must be focused.
  3. Hire a team that is die-hard, self-motivated and that can fly your ship.
  4. Market & Competitors. Your every competitor has a drawback, make it your strongest point.
  5. Good monetisation model excluding ads.
  6. Don’t have just one innovation, have a whole pipeline, a series of innovations.
  7. Budget planning for at least 3 years. Revenue and Expenses must have assumptions.
  8. Milestones- break your plan/wishlist into milestones.
  9. Monthly Profit & Loss Sheet should be there.
  10. Differentiate between Risks & Opportunities.
  11. Plan your Elevator Pitch. Say you are in elevator with Warren Buffet and you got just 30 secs to impress him so that he’ll give you a check in 30 secs, what you’ll say?
  12. Build Evangelical Team that will bring Evangelical Customers.
  13. Check where you stand . Give customer what he wants -> Colgate gave. Give customer more than he wants -> Google gave. Give customer which he never dreamed of -> Facebook gave.

So these were the great advices and suggestion by Prof. Nandini represented here in front of you. Hope you found it interesting and learned at least one point to follow your journey of Entrepreneurship…!

May 14th, 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

Indian e-commerce – nuances and challenges

Everybody and their grandma in India now knows that Indian e-commerce market is set to explode – it is expected to go from current 7 billion dollar (of which 6 billion is online travel alone) to 40 billion by 2015 – ie in 3-4 years.

In view of this, dozens of new ecommerce startups have launched in India and some of them are increasing market share at a breakneck speed. Some of these include Flipkart, Snapdeal, Exclusively.in, yebhi.com, babyoye.com, myntra.com and several others from large brands as well as startups.

But Indian ecommerce is not like that in the West – where online credit card payment and cheap shipping are the order of the day. India has presented these online commerce vendors with its own unique challenges – eg. :

  • COD : customers are reticent to use credit cards online. COD or Cash on Delivery is the preferred method for payment for most online sales.
  • Free Shipping : Indian online customers do not want to pay for shipping – as a result, Indian ecommerce vendors have to bite the bullet on shipping as well.
  • Categories for online shopping : Indian customers so far are mostly interested in online travel purchases – but when it comes to other products like toys, baby products, household items, books, music CDs and such, physical stores still take more than 99% of the customer pie. Of course, now electronics, books and apparel are some products gaining traction in online sales.
  • Where are the profits ? : Of course, it is well known that most India ecommerce startups are taking a loss on online sales – just to grow market share. One expects a market shakeout on this sooner or later and only the strongest (and well funded) ones will survive this fight to the top. We feel that the shakeout will begin to happen over the course of next year with several pulling the plug on their ventures or being bought out by other stronger ones.

Above list highlights some major challenges for the Indian ecommerce players. Enter Indian Jugaad – or Indian version of “make it work somehow“. New services like Gharpay and chottu.in have been launched to tackle the COD cash collection challenges, as well as product delivery in some cases. These services are building networks of collection agents in various circles or cities and provide Cash on delivery collection services as well as product delivery for the major vendors like Redbus.in, Myntra and Flipkart. Within months of launch, these services have signed  up many leading online vendors as customers.

Well – one has to admit – when it comes to India, it is all about “Jugaad Karo“. In India, if there is a problem, there is always a “Jugaad solution” lurking somewhere – it is upto creative entrepreneurs to find such gaps and exploit them to make new ventures.

December 14th, 2011

The Indian Web and Mobile Markets by the numbers

(excerpted from GigaOm Pro article at http://t.co/20B9JVyo)

Katie Fehrenbacher with Gigaom is traveling with Geeks on a Plane in India. She writes following stats provided by Google CEO Rajan Anandan to the Geeks on a Plane group :

Rajan Anandan on Indian internet scene : “We’re probably in 1996 in the U.S. in terms of the Internet market in India.”

Here’s the stats from Anandan’s deck. India has:

  • 1.2 billion people
  • The 9th largest economy in the world, with $1.7 trillion GDP
  • 600 million people below the age of 25
  • 22 languages
  • 250 million in the consuming class — these are the folks that buy e-commerce
  • 900 million mobile accounts, with 600 million unique mobile subscribers (many people have more than one account)
  • 30 million PCs — it’ll be a mobile broadband world
  • Average revenue per user (ARPU) is $3
  • 100 million Internet users, and 120 million Internet users by the end of 2011
  • By 2015 there will be 300 million to 400 million Internet users
  • 37 percent of Internet users access the web from home, 27 percent from an Internet cafe, 22 percent from an office, 3 percent from school
  • There are 50 million mobile data subscribers
  • 5 million access Internet only on the phone
  • In 2010/2011 e-commerce emerged as a $7 billion market, with $6 billion of that going to online travel
  • By 2015 the e-commerce market is expected to be $40 billion
  • 67 percent of e-commerce customers by electronics and cell phones. 18 percent buy apparel.
  • 15 million 3G mobile subscribers
  • Broadband is 250 kbps to 500 kpbs fixed line
  • The use of smart phones will grow 52 percent CAGR
  • There are 37 million Facebook users
  • Google Plus use is bigger than Twitter use
  • 23 million unique users on YouTube India
  • There will be $1.3 trillion in online ad spend in 2011
  • The English Internet will not scale beyond 200 million, says Anandan
  • 159 million read Hindi newspapers and 31 million read English newspapers
  • There will be a massive tsunami toward vernacular content on the web, says Anandan
  • 70 percent of non-travel e-commerce is “cash on delivery” (no online payments, buyers pay cash when goods are delivered)
  • This cash on delivery market has a 30 percent return rate
  • Web 1.0 and 2.0 are happening at the same time in India, says Anandan.

Some Internet sites that have found success in India:

Thanks to Gigaom for the above post.

December 14th, 2011

Open Leadership – Empowering Employees and Customers : Expert Advice from Charlene Li (Altimeter Group)

Attended a webinar by Charlene Li of Altimeter Group. Charlene is one of world’s foremost experts on Social Media and Opening up Corporate environments to discussion, feedback and engagement.

Charlene Li is Founder of Altimeter Group and a former Researcher from Forrester Research. She has authored two of the leading books in Social space – Groundswell and Open Leadership.

Here are Charlene’s thoughts on Open Leadership, Social Media and Employee Empowerment :

The Dell case study is the subject of lot of Social Media books. A Dell laptop caught fire in a Japanese fire many years back and a video of it circulates till date on YouTube and other media portals. Dell, at the time, was not equipped to respond to the PR nightmare that followed. After that Dell engaged in extensive introspection and created a powerful Social empowerment strategy for it’s employees.

Charlene talks about three key aspects to developing an Open Leadership enviroment : Strategy, Leadership and Preparedness.

Strategy :

Today’s leaders need to “Learn” about what is happening in employee circles and customer spheres. This requires “Dialog”. Best Buy has created twelpforce – a twitter support group about 2500 strong to provide support to customers.

The Social Strategy involves an Engagement Pyramid :

The Engagement Pyramid indicates various levels of Open Leadership possible in a firm.

DellOutlet drives sales with Dialog on twitter – this channel is used to announce promotions. Web announcements and brochures are other ways to promote new products but they do not engender any user feedback whereas the same promotions on twitter drive user feedback and sharing. Similarly, Kohl’s retail chain encourages its customers to share their purchase experiences on its user portal.

This is all about enabling Dialog.

The next idea is “Integrate” support in your business. One firm has 85% of its employees engaged in customer support forums. This leads to good customer satisfaction. Starbucks invites ideas on www.mystarbucksidea.com. Almost 100 customer ideas from this portal have been implemented.

Leadership :

This means that top leadership needs to have the confidence and humility to give up Control and empower it’s people. This also requires authenticity and transparency. Sunguard CEO said that it would be arrogant for a CEO to think that he or she can make better decisions than the thousands of people below him/her. Sunguard CEO implemented Yammer in his firm – the intranet equivalent of twitter.

Premier Farnell (a manufacturing firm) runs the “OurTube” portal for its employees and engineers – this portal allows the engineers to share ideas and best practices. Salesforce.com – the premier online CRM firm, uses its own Chatter platform for internal communication and sharing.

Preparedness :

The question is how to get started on the path of Open Leadership. Charlene lays out a five step process :

#1 Align Social with key strategy goals for current and next year

Take some risks with Social technology if you have to

#2 Create a culture of sharing

Exercise sharing muscles. Often times, CEO and other leaders must lead by example by sharing themselves. Eg Edelman CEO blogs every single week since 2004.

How to encourage sharing :

  • Give sharing a purpose eg. goal, project or event
  • Build trust : Limit people you share with, at least initially
  • Use video : eg one can use cellphone to record yourself and put it out there

Send it out by email for sharing – email works also – in addition to social networks.

#3 Discipline is needed to succeed

Formalize the Open Leadership process – without definition, people do not know the boundaries and may not be comfortable with this media. rules of atticate, rules of behavior, rules of culture.

#4 Ask the right questions about value

Some orgs use brand metrics or net promoter score – but these are tough and laborious to measure. Whereas social technology is infinitely measurable – metrics is not the key, but relationships are.

#5 Prepare for failure

No relationships are perfect. Google’s mantra is – “Fail fast, Fail Smart“.

It’s about RELATIONSHIPs at the end of day – relationships with customers, relationships with employees and relationships with partners.

Baby boomers – some are active on Social Media even though common perception is that they don’t get it. Millennials – they are new in orgs and hence least secure to brand as Empowered employees.

For a firm, the best people to put out there acting as ambassadors are – folks who are passionate about this stuff – these are often baby boomers.

Q & A :

How do management set personal and professional boundaries for Social empowerment ? depends on what relationships a firm wants – that will determine the boundaries.

Another question is to check “Readiness” of firms for Open Leadership. How ready is it to engage ? many departments like legal, investor relations, marketing and others need to provide the clearance for this.

Why does Apple succeed in spite of being so closed ? Charlene mentioned that although Apple is a very closed organization and is keep its operations and new products very secret, but they still succeed due to their fantastic product quality. But another way to look at it is that Apple has so many passionate fans that act as their ambassadors and advocates. That said, Apple has it’s share of problems etc the Antenna issue in the iPhone 4 caused so much PR problems for Apple.

Open Strategy must focus on RELATIONSHIPs and not on tech platform eg Facebook or twitter or email etc

Companies try to start with content creation – blogs, youtube (90% push, 10% feedback) before they go onto other steps in Openness.

Sometimes firms find that people are not participating in an Open environment – this is a training and prority issue. Charlene says that leaders have to look for passionate staff who thrive on feedback.

Why Openness can fail : often times when it is not structured. Business requires context and structure to be successful

Which departments use Social Tech ? 40% of it is in Marketing dept. Increasingly, Corporate Communication and HR depts are using it. As well, HR, Investor Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility depts are beginning to use it.

Cultural nuances ? Charlene found that cultural nuances effect Social and Open in different countries. Eg in Korea and Brazil – producing content is twice as popular than in USA – people want to create content as there is little of it so far.

China – people are transparent about their salaries, not so in USA. Different cultures share different things but the point is that they do share.

Eventually, Social Technology will be like air – anywhere and everywhere.

Over time : When one locks into grocery store, they will know who I am and what I typically want

If consumers are adopting Social technology, companies need to be there too.

You HAVE TO GO where your customers are, firms cannot just focus on their websites etc.

What about privacy issues ? Charlene said that there is clear distinction between PRIVACY and PERMISSION. But, society’s norms change quickly about privacy. Eg Caller id was resisted by people before as it was considered invasive of privacy. But now it is mandatory before people answer calls.

One has to constantly test where the public boundary is for privacy.

- What about failures when trying out Openness ? Charlene’s book has one complete chapter on Failure of Openness.

Most CEOs feel their stomach churning when they enter this arena. It takes some time and experimentation for management to develop a comfort zone with Open Leadership.

If one is in job market today, potential candidates are demanding open firms. On the flip side, some people want more structure around Openness. It is the Younger generation that has a preference to continue to be social.

How about loss of employee productivity using social networks ? Charlene says this is a management problem and not a productivity problem. If a firm blocks people from using social media, people do it anyway on their phones and take long breaks.

Learning about Open Leadership is the MOST IMPORTANT OBJECTIVE as all firms today want to become people-oriented.

Focus Groups and Surveys are hard to do and get responses. It is much easier to search Social Networks and one knows the participants’ profiles and biases.

June 16th, 2011

Event Roundup from Mobile Apps Conclave, Bangalore

Mobile Apps Conclave – the conference organized by CellStrat concluded successfully on 29th April, ‘11 at The Chancery Pavilion Hotel, Bangalore. The Conference saw tremendous interest with a large no of audience from all over India. The star-studded speaker lineup and intuitive content on Mobile Apps and Web fueled interest in this event. The theme for this event was : “The Mobile Web Disruption – Life, Media and Business get Appified”.

In addition to Bangalore, audience came from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Chennai, both from brands and senior management of companies as well as the developer community.

More than 200 blue-chip audience participated in this event on the hottest topic in modern times – Mobile Apps, App Stores and the Mobile Internet. Most brands, mobile device manufacturers, app store and app development firms were present to learn about the Business of Mobile Apps and Web.

Details of the event and photographs are available at http://www.mobileappsconclave.com.

Event Brief :
The Mobile Web – the new name of Growth around the world. Mobile Internet Tsunami – as many refer to it.

Mobile is the industry of this decade. Mobile has taken world by storm. The feature phone growth is fast evolving into smartphone growth driven by the emergence and popularity of The Mobile Web and those tiny ubiquitous Apps – hundreds of thousands of them literally. Mobile Web is upending so many industries, it is breathtaking to say the least. Many of these businesses are succumbing to the trend which the venerable firm Apple started – businesses like news and media, advertising, gaming, productivity, publishing, telecom, entertainment, commerce, financial services or healthcare..the list goes on and on. Whoever you are, wherever you are – either have an App and Mobile Media strategy or be prepared to loose substantial traction in the marketplace – because, indeed, your customers are App savvy even if you are not.

You are on the road and want to check nearby promotions, there are many apps for that; you want to track your supply chain, many apps for that too; track Social Network updates; many apps there as well; there is even an app for Confessing to God. Apps are orchestrating the growth in intelligent smartphones; next playground is Tablet followed by Computers. Are you ready for the brave New World of Mobile and Mobile Tablets ? Are you ready for the Mobile Web revolution ?

Conference Sessions :
Here are some notes from the Keynotes and Panels that transpired at this event.

In the morning session, there was an intuitive keynote by Pratapa Bernard, Vice President and Head – COE – Data Services (Emerging Markets) at Vodafone. He addressed the impact of the Mobile Web and Apps on the modern consumer and businesses. He mentioned the imperative need to focus on user experience and not technology itself citing the example of Apple etc. He went on to say that 80% of internet access in India in 2015 will be from mobile devices.

Next came a panel on “Mobile Apps go mainstream – Content, Engagement and Lifestyle on Mobile Apps”. This panel discussed the Mobile App revolution and how Content and Entertainment is being delivered via Apps. The panel speakers included Rajiv Kumar (CEO – RockeTalk), Deepak Swamy (Head – Flypp App Store, Infosys), Sanjay Bhasin (VP-Getit Info Services), Vikram Tanna (VP – STAR Digital), Rajesh Reddy (CEO, July Systems) and Narasimha Suresh (CEO – TELiBrahma). This panel focussed on App monetization and how developers are finding it a challenge to monetize their apps. This panel also discussed the need to “Indianize” the Western business models, cost structures as well as offerings to make them work in India. On HTML5, the panel members said this new standard will be big against Mobile apps but the “when” is not clear yet.

After the first panel, there was an interesting keynote by InMobi (top Mobile Advertising firm) executive Sridhar Ranganathan (VP-Product Management) on how market pressures are forcing firms like InMobi to push the boundaries of creativity with immersive advertising and the need to think of Mobile Ads like mini-apps. He mentioned the need to un-learn the PC and focus on Mobile as a separate experience.

In the afternoon session, there was an innovative keynote by Sunny Rao, MD – India and APAC of Nuance Communications. Sunny spoke about some of the innovations in Mobile Web world surrounding Speech Technology, Voice-based Social Networking and automotive vehicles as mobile channels. Sunny’s keynote was followed by an interesting panel on innovations in Mobile Apps and Mobile Web. This panel had some true Mobile innovators in Amiya Pathak of ZipDial, Kalyan Manyam of MojoStreet, Indus Khaitan of Bitzer Mobile and Soumitra Sharma of IDG Ventures. This panel discussed specialized vertical Apps which are popping up in industries like Payments and Commerce, Social Gaming, Healthcare and Education.

The Mobile Innovations panel was followed by a Startup showcase where Sriram Mohan, Associate Editor at YourStory.in helped introduce some startups which are creating innovative business models in the Mobile App ecosystem.

The last (but not the least) panel was on Emerging Devices and Tablets. Advent of Apple iPad has opened a whole new world of possibilities and truly heralds a world of post-PC era. Prabha Aithal, CTO at CanvasM moderated a panel of speakers which included Alap Ghosh of Mobango (App Store), Pradeep Rao of Research in Motion, Ashish Gupta of Helion Ventures and Dr Sharad Jaiswal of Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs. This panel discussed the impact that the tablet and emerging devices are having on the ecosystem. Emerging Devices is a hot new area and is seeing digitization of content at a blistering pace from a variety of industry verticals like publishing, entertainment, retail, media etc..

Conference Partners :
Overall, it was an action-packed conference with active participation from speakers and audience. Partners included Presentation Sharing Partner authorSTREAM on which the presentations by CellStrat, event speakers, exhibitors and partners can be found. The Mobile App Partner, Hazel Media provided an event app for this conference. Whereas the Mobility Partner, MobiVite published a Mobile WAP site for the same.

InMobi was the Platinum Sponsor for this event. AgileCO was the Gold Sponsor. Other supporters included partners like MOMO Bangalore, The Morpheus and Indian Angel Network (IAN). Media Partners include the online media firm YourStory.in and TelecomLead.

YourStory.in was a Premium Partner for this event and it provided online media visibility as well as Anchor support for the event.

Mobile Solutions Expo :
This conference also saw an interesting exhibition on Mobile Solutions where some innovative app companies exhibited their apps and solutions. This Expo dazzled the audience with some interesting apps and solutions in the Mobile space. The exhibitors included WINIT, Nanostuffs, RockeTalk, Bitstream, Softtrends, MobiVite and some others.

For photos and other details from the event, check the event website at : http://www.mobileappsconclave.com.

Shyam Kamadolli (Director – Fidelity Growth Partners India) was one of the attendees and has some intuitive notes from this conference on his blog : http://skamadolli.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/india-mobile-apps/.

May 16th, 2011

TV Everywhere – access Video and Movies on the go

I recently attended a TV Everywhere session where there was a discussion on the evolution of the Television and Video industry with the advent of IPTV and Mobile access devices.

Clearly, TV Everywhere is a a huge trend and there are many factors driving this trend :

  • Broadband

Today one sees DSL and Cable Modems have replaced the erstwhile Dial-ups. The 312 KBPS+ bandwidth running upto 50 MBPS for high end Cable modems in advanced economies (speeds in India top out at 1.5 to 3 MBPS etc for most providers) is enabling the ability to access high-speed graphics, video and gaming content from home and work computers.

Firms like Netflix in the US and Canada have figured out compelling business models to stream movies over the internet and are threatning the traditional movie rental business and regular cable television.

India’s broadband penetration rate is woefully small and speeds are still on low end of the spectrum, so Live TV Streaming in India is still a very niche industry. However with the expected surge in internet penetration expected over the next decade (some estimates put India’s internet penetration at 30% households in next few years), the IPTV and online TV streaming is expected to surge. Firms like seventymm.com which have led the online DVD rental business in India (India’s Netflix) will likely evolve into movie streaming firms as India’s broadband penetration takes hold, similar to what Netflix has done in the United States.

  • Mobile Connectivity

Broadband sticks and Laptop connect cards (offered by most carriers) enable the laptops and tablets to be wirelessly connected over a reasonably fast GPRS/UMTS/3G network – with the advent of 3G in India, this pattern is sure to accelerate.

Consumers today are demanding YouTube and Cricket streaming video from their laptops, smartphones and tablets. Content providers and distributors have to oblige if they hope to keep these consumers engaged and commercially viable.

For India, Mobile is specially important as it has close to 800 million Mobile Subscribers already. Granted that more than 90% of these are carrying feature phones and using the 2G/2.5G networks, smartphone penetration rate is accelerating and wireless tablets are being introduced as well by a variety of handset firms. Between the smartphones, tablets and 3G, one is looking at increasing Mobile Video and TV access over the airwaves in the coming years.

  • Consumer behaviour

As mentioned above, Consumer is the King. With proliferation of devices around the home and on the go, plus busy urban lifestyles, consumers are demanding DVR recording capabilities as well as anywhere, anytime access to their favorite programs. A common trend in many households, which have acquired the new tablets like iPad, is that as soon as the first tablet arrives, members of the household including parents and kids make a grab for it and want to curl up in the bed with their favorite channels on YouTube, Netflix or other streaming services.

TV Everywhere is a developing trend and is being demanded by the consumer. Entertainment and Media industry are happy to oblige – to drive new revenue growth and keep the customers engaged with the brands.

What are the prominent TV and Video Streaming services in India :

  • CNN-IBN Live : TV Portal as well as Live TV
  • NDTV 24×7 : TV Portal as well as Live TV
  • In.com : Has a Video Social Network (not live streaming generally)
  • CNBC TV18 / moneycontrol.com : Business news streaming
  • ESPNStar.com : Video Portal (not live streaming) – has lot of Cricket coverage for World Cup and IPL
  • YouTube / Indiatimes.com : streaming ICC World Cup as well as IPL cricket matches
  • Nautanki.tv : currently it’s website is not accessible (so not clear on it’s status)

April 16th, 2011

Local Search and Coupons explode : the rise of Groupon

Much is being talked about the rise of Groupon, LivingSocial and other such Daily Deal / Group Shopping outfits which have emerged on the scene within the last 1 to 2 years. Many stats claim that Groupon may be the fastest growing company in history. What is the big deal about Local Search and why is it so hot ? In this article, we examine this trend and the factors driving its explosive growth.

Groupon is changing the face of Commerce

Groupon, LivingSocial and many other like firms have figured out the secret sauce in Group Shopping experience. Group Shopping is not new or innovative in any fashion. Many outfits tried this in the prior dot com craze but it did not take off. Why now ? It’s the rise of Social Networks and Mobile Connectivity – something that we often refer to as “Mobile Social” or “Social Mobile”. Between the Facebooks and Twitters of the world and breakneck growth of Mobile phones, we are looking at Group Shopping proliferation like never before. The basic idea of Group Shopping is obviously that such sites promise to increase the foot traffic to local retailers and merchants by offering daily deals to scores of public. By spreading word about such deals using Mobile Apps, Social Networks and general Buzz Marketing, such sites have grown rapidly.

Groupon is said to have a $25 billion valuation already. Groupon is, of course, rumored to be working on an IPO at this valuation. Groupon had, earlier, rebuffed a $6 billion offer of acquistion from Google!

Late last year, LivingSocial accepted a $175 million investment from Amazon. Certainly, the big internet firms are watching this space with keen interest and would like to take part. Facebook, not to be left behind in this hot area, is about to launch its daily deals service in some cities across US.

The business model deployed by firms like Groupon and LivingSocial is to hire local sales staff in all major metropolitan areas and send coupons for local retailers to audience in the respective cities. With intuitive Mobile Apps on iPhone, Android and other platforms, sending such deals has become easier than ever. So we have the business model and we have the distribution via Mobile phones and emails – in sum total, we have the secret sauce of Group Shopping and modern commerce.

Group Shopping getting crowded

The problem with such Group shopping experience is that there is low barrier to entry. All it takes is a big field sales force in major cities, cool mobile apps and websites and word of mouth marketing. As a result one sees such models cropping up daily, almost at the rate of one new firm per day. Who will win this area eventually ? So far Groupon is winning it and so is LivingSocial. Others are either not that well known or are too new to make a dent. That is why Google tried to buy out Groupon rather than invest in its own model ( After the Groupon rebuff though, Google decided to launch its own daily deals business under the brand Google Offers ).

While others are new to the market or not that well known, eventually this field will be dominated by firms which can continue to grow rapidly and build out the sales capabilities in cities nationwide. Ultimately, this will be a business about economies of scale. Likely winners include Groupon, LivingSocial (with its Amazon backing), Facebook and Google. Most other firms will not be able to reach the economies of scale needed to succeed in this area.

Not all is hunky-dory in Group Shopping

Collective buying is touted as Win-Win for all. There is nothing farther from the truth. Many retail partners of Groupon and such sites have complained of squeezed profit margins, shift in customer buying patterns and constant bickering with Groupon sales teams who are trying to sell them on deals and driving down prices. Consumers have often found, much to their chagrin, that prices offered on Group Shopping sites, were higher than what they would get otherwise. Moreover, often times such sites highlight discounts that customers can get any way through other means.

The retailers are becoming savvy on Groupon and are requiring a lot of fine print and exclusions on Group deals, things which consumers usually miss why buying such deals and tend to suffer later. In some cases, consumers who bought these deals have found that there are exclusion days or spa appointments are sold out for a long time. This area is getting messy for sure, where all stakeholders – daily deal sites, retailers and consumers are playing the negotiation ball harder and harder.

Group Shopping craze comes to India

After seeing the breakneck growth of Groupon, firms in India and China were quick to copy the model. India has seen dozens of such sites crop up – prominent among these are SnapDeal, KhojGuru, SoSasta (acquired by Groupon), BuzzInTown etc. Groupon did not waste time in expanding internationally – in China, it launched GaoPeng.com in partnership with Alibaba founder Jack Ma. In India, Groupon scooped up local firm SoSasta.com.  “Collective buying is in its infancy in India, Israel and South Africa and we see strong potential,” said Groupon’s president and COO Rob Solomon, “Groupon is shaping the way local merchants market themselves in every corner of the world.”

But growth in India is not a cakewalk and differs vastly from that seen in the West. India has less than 10% internet penetration (broadband penetration being around 1%) and less than 10% smartphone penetration – both of which are the primary drivers of success for firms like Groupon in the west. In India, commerce is dominated by the local retailers and merchants who control more than 90% of the shopping market share. Groupon / SoSasta are using India-specific models like variations of Cash-on-delivery (COD) where cash can be picked from homes for deals purchased. Moreover, the margins in India are much smaller than those in the West for Group Shopping firms. Also India already counts more than a dozen such outfits (or similar to a large extent), so competition is already intense for what is still a small market for Group Shopping.

Firms like SnapDeal have become popular in India touting vacation packages, spa experiences and high-end fashion products. Bottomline is that, in India, group shopping has still some ways to go before it becomes a substantial revenue opportunity. Firms which can last and build scale for a long time in India will ultimately be the ones which win. The usual winners from the west like Groupon, Facebook and Google will likely do well in India over time as these firms have the heft to ride out slow growth typical in markets like India.

Daily Deal innovations

Group Shopping is about to enter Phase 2. Groupon is fervently preparing for its most ambitious venture yet: the launch of a new mobile application that the company hopes will change when and how society chooses to eat, shop and play. Groupon is about to launch an app called Groupon Now which will have just two functions : “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored” – on clicking any of these, the user will be presented offers for nearby cuisines or entertainment experiences as the case may be. By simplifying the user experience in this intuitive way, Groupon aims to capture the Commerce market even further – this will likely solve the problem of perishable food in restaurants or empty seats at a show – wherein the merchant publishes last minute offers on Groupon Now. It is foreseeable that these two ideas will become standard buttons on some smartphones of the future (just like Facebook has become on some phones). It won’t be long until we find out if Groupon Now is the future of local commerce; the mobile app launches in April.

LivingSocial, on it’s part, has an option where if a user gets three friends to buy the deal, the original user gets the deal free – this is about reference shopping. The Collective Buying area will continue to see experimentation and new players for now, or at least until those lofty market valuation increases start to stabilize.

March 30th, 2011

“Year of the Tablet” – notes from Wireless Technology Forum (Atlanta) session on Tablets

(from our Atlanta desk)

It is commonly said that this is the “Year of the Tablet“. Certainly, with Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom and dozens of other tablets and eReaders being introduced in the marketplace, everybody is talking about the “post-PC” era and the impact of tablets on consumers and businesses. Tablets are causing upheavals in the Publishing and Media industries with most major Newspapers and Magazines plotting a Tablet strategy for their periodicals. Netflix and other Streaming Entertainment providers are booming due to the surge in Tablet access subscriptions. Book Publishers are digitizing their books at an increasingly rapid pace expecting a shift away from Printed Books to Tablet or eReaders. 80% of Fortune 100 companies in the United States are trialing iPad for their Corporate employees. Laptops which were hyper-growth computers for the first decade of this century are making way for the Invasion of the Tablets.

Our analyst in Atlanta attended an intuitive session on Tablet computing at the Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta on March 17th, 2011. Here are the notes from this session :

Speakers :

Mike Lupo, Sr Director – Digital Products, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC)
Karen Truitt, Director – Mobile Devices, Intel
Chuck Rainbow, Technical Manager – Tablets, Research in Motion
Jim Dudenhoefer, Manager – WebOS, HP Palm
Moderator : Dr. Phil Hendrix, Director, Institute of Mobile Markets Research (IMMR), Atlanta

 

A great cast of speakers from top contenders in the Tablet space (the 800-Pound Gorilla, ie Apple, was missing, so was Google). This session focused on the tablet form factor, the applications that will drive adoption and the business models needed to support this new networking paradigm.

(All data below refers to USA Tablet Market)

Dr Phil : Tablets have almost 5 to 7% penetration right now – it is currently one of the fastest growing Consumer Electronics products.

IMMR (Dr Phil’s organization) recently concluded a survey on the Tablet ecosystem. On the question of “Familiarity with Tablets”, here are the stats :

  • On the question of “Familiarity with Tablets” :- 38% audience – somewhat familiar; 26% – very familiar; 35% – not familiar
  • Smartphone familiarity is higher than feature phones in households.
  • 4 in 10 people are interested in purchasing a tablet for someone in the household. Once the tablet comes into the household, it tends to get shared. Over time, some households may become multi-tablet households.
  • Lower prices will unlock demand. $500 is the breaking point for most folks when they get discouraged from spending on tablets. iPad is at a higher price point but has still sold like hotcake – this is due to Early adopters, who are buying high end tablets today. But significant opportunity exists for cheaper tablets below the $500 threshold.
  • Preferred Tablet OS :- Apple iOS – 58%, Windows OS – 36%, Android OS – 35%, BlackBerry – 13%, HP Palm – 9%. Interestingly, Windows OS beat out Android slightly.

Mike (AJC) : AJC Newspaper has just developed its iPad App and it is currently in Beta. AJC also has an iPhone/iOS App called AJC Digest which is available on App Store today.

Karen – Intel, which is a strong leader in the PC microprocessor industry so far, is looking to expand into tablet microprocessors, chips inside cars, etc.

Jim – HP had acquired Palm recently and HP plans to deploy the Palm WebOS in many of its tablet devices over the years.

Chuck - RIM is about to release its Tablet play titled “Playbook”. There is much excitement within RIM with this upcoming launch.

Dr Phil - Why now for tablets ?

Karen - Apple has created the game-changing device in iPad. Apple is a master of simple products that work well. They made the Mobile Device, App and App Delivery ecosystem simple enough to allow for a mass market adoption.

Chuck – Tablets are now because chip processing and battery power has reached a point where these devices are possible (our take on this : RIM won’t admit to Apple’s role in opening this market :). These devices are now feasible. We are reaching an inflection point where tablets can substitute for laptops, devices which are anyway more difficult to lug around. People are not getting acclimatized to these devices.

Jim- Consumers today demand anywhere access to content and data. Tablets are just another end point in this evolution. It’s about data access – moving it to the cloud and the desire to access it from anywhere. Phone screen is too small to allow an optimal experience for this. Jim also noted that they are not concerned about Apple’s dominance so far. Jim has a great point of view that, if at all, Apple has been a positive contributor in creating a huge new market for all device makers to play in. Jim said market is huge for many to thrive. This is a market where all boats can and will rise. (Good point)

Mike - In an average American home, people think of tablets as lean back experience whereas PC is work – so tablets make sense now for AJC. Newspaper is about relaxing and consuming the news. So it makes sense for AJC to work in tablet space.

Dr Phil – The 800-pound gorilla (Apple-who else) is not in this session. Where is the gap in Apple’s tablet strategy which others could potentially exploit ?

Karen- Apple has created the benchmark. Everybody else is trying to catch up to that. Android Honeycomb from Google is an attempt to catch up to the iPad benchmark. However the user experience of Android still has to mature for it to be a strong contender. AS to Apple’s weak points, Flash is certainly one – a blatant omission from the likes of Apple. (Karen admitted, however, that Apple does not consider lack of Flash in iOS devices as a weak point).

Chuck- Apple is weak on security. There is a security breach every 4 hours in Apple iOS environment. RIM / BlackBerry is known for security (note that BlackBerry is still dominant smartphone in the Corporate world). Mobile Device security is critical area – virus maker McAfee has smartphone security software today. Apple does even acknowledge the security issue in its iOS environment. Chuck said that until something goes wrong, people don’t take notice. Consumers will start getting concerned when they loose credit cards etc in Apple environment (CellStrat note : Note that Mobile Payments is about to become a big area and here security is of paramount importance).

Jim - Apple is consumer-focused firm. There is lot of opportunity in Enterprise and niche verticals (where the field is still open for all) in addition to the huge consumer opportunity.

Dr Phil : Avg selling price in 18 months?

Mike – 350 or 300 dollar will be great.

Dr Phil - Newspaper in Canada is giving away iPads if folks buy newspaper subscriptions. Will Atlanta Journal Constitution adopt this approach ?

Mike (with a chuckle) – No (resoundingly!)

Karen - Intel has created  tablets for healthcare verticals. Businesses will want ruggedized versions of tablets (a delicate iPad device will not work in many industries) – these devices may get dropped and used in rough conditions in various industries.

Dr Phil – Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Nobile (Nook) eReaders will have more and more of tablet functions over time as the boundaries between eReaders and tablets will become indistinguishable. Printed Books may become redundant. Tablets will take over though it will take some time.

Q/A :

Ques : Will HTML5 replace Flash?

Dr Phil - Depends on how quickly content makers adapt.

Ques : Where is the money?

Karen – Apple is making money and also App developers. Carriers are making money also because of rapid growth in Data plans.

Jim- Dynamics of the industry is changing. It is still wide open to pin down the business model. Revenue Models are evolving still.

Chuck- When the PC came around, money was in hardware sales. Then, software became more important and apps like Microsoft Office made money. A similar ecosystem will evolve in Mobile Devices (implying mobile device hardware will make money followed by software over longer term).

Ques : What about accessories business ? The new Apple Smart Covers for iPad 2’s is all about margins (for Apple). Will USB attachments and such accessories be a lucrative area ?

Chuck - Ultimately Bluetooth will be dominant. Apple model of side-loading will be replaced by Cloud services. (Chuck said that in spite of this, Blackberry Playbook will have USB and HDMI port to cover all bases).

Ques : HP Palm strategy to win over developers given Apple’s popularity in Developer ecosystem (50,000 Apps already available customized to Apple iPad and HP Palm has hardly any, so far) ? After all Developers make or break Mobile platforms. Also, Apple deducts a large chuck (30%) from Developer App revenue as commission.

Jim - HP talked to a lot of developers and they are struggling on revenue generation with the Apple App Store or even the Android Store. Certainly there is room for developer innovation here in terms of Business model which helps them.
HP’s strategy will be to be as open as possible (Open Mobile environment) – ultimately this will help Developers. Eg Kindle Book Store will be available on HP Palm – this means that HP Palm Tablet will have 800,000 Kindle Books available from the get go. Also, HP will offer both models in its App ecosystem – the App store approach for mass market as well as Private distribution for corporations.

Chuck – Even though Apple iPad has 50,000 custom Apps, most are trivial (he referenced iFart apps on Apple Store:). Average Usage per app among the 50K apps (on iPad App Store) is less than one day. RIM / Blackberry has much higher average usage of its mobile apps. (our take : Good point but can one discount the mass Developer and Consumer Crowd running after Apple ?)

Ques : On Tablets replacing PCs ?

Karen - Tablet is a consumption device. It will do well but won’t replace PCs/laptops. PCs will always be ahead in graphics and processing power.  So tablet will not replace PCs/laptops that fast (our take: they better not – else Intel’s primary business is in jeopardy :) 

Overall a great session on Tablets. Kudos to the folks at Wireless Technology Forum (Bob, Steve, Maury, Scott, John, Ed and others) for organizing this event.

March 18th, 2011

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