At the Mobile Conclave 2010, industry veterans discussed the current state of mobile advertising and VAS in India, and compared it with the mobile media industry in developed world.
At the keynote address, Vivek Singhal, chief executive officer of mobile intelligence firm CellStrat spoke on the phenomenal growth of mobile phone usage in India and also on how better content can lead to more revenues from advertising for VAS companies. He said, "In India, content is mostly pirated but now it is gaining traction. We will now see more of paid content from big brands and this will help us in generating more revenues." He compared the mobile ad industry in India to that in the West and said, "India is about SMS advertising whereas western world is about banner advertising."
Milind Pathak, vice-president, Comviva brought the focus to challenges faced by the VAS industry and said, "The ecosystem in India is not suitable (for growth), as there is a fight on revenue sharing and penetration is low on VAS front." He, however, said that he is optimistic for this year as "a lot of players would bring in a lot of traction to help consumers discover. There would be a rise in free content penetration and downloading and m-commerce would also pick up." He added that 20-25 per cent of data services penetration in India is possible in the coming years.
The keynotes were followed by a panel discussion on 'Mobile Advertising: Today, Tomorrow and Beyond'. The panel, comprised Chirag Jain, vice-president, marketing, Webaroo (SMS GupShup); Ankur Agrawal, general manager, Indiatimes; Debasis Chatterji, chief executive officer, Netxcell and was moderated by Singhal of CellStrat.
Jain started the discussion by throwing light on the present mobile ad channels - SMS, voice, WAP, applications - BlueCast Bluetooth (advertising solutions that enable advertisers to deliver location targeted mobile campaigns) and mobile video. He said that every medium takes time to mature and the industry should give some more time to mobile advertising. He added, "There are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, one should not set unusually high expectations without allowing the medium to mature. Secondly, its comparison with other media is unfair."
Chatterji took over the discussion and explained in length the factors responsible for slow growth of mobile VAS and advertising in India. According to him, "Mobile advertising is important because you can overcome time and age barriers with it, and it is the only medium where you can be very interactive." He said that factors such as small screen size, do-not-call service, low bandwidth with no trace of 3G and smartphone prices are posing big problems for the growth of mobile advertising in the country. Chatterji added, "A lot of contextual study is required for understanding the kind of advertising, both quantitative and qualitative, that is needed."
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