This post take a look at the Mobile Telecom Value Added Services (VAS) Market in Pakistan and India. These services add value to the standard voice service and usually drive up the revenue per user. SMS, ring tones, picture/video messaging such as greetings, games and accessing Internet or other data services (such as Telenor Edge) are common examples of value-added services for mobile phones.

All the mobile phone companies in Pakistan offer many value added services in forms of various forms of messaging, information, ring tones, music and every imaginable entertainment one can think of. There are too many of these services around to link them here but if you visit the mobile company websites you will find these services clearly advertised. Messaging and ring tones are the biggest revenue producers though I do not have numbers for the market size. I covered the messaging in an earlier post. Ring tones may evoke strong opinions from people for various (social and cultural?) reasons but if you look beyond that ring tones market has done surprisingly well all over the world. It is unclear whether 3G and Mobile web 2.0 will have a significant impact on South Asian market in the coming years.

Related to this is the recent surge of interest in Mobile Virtual Network Operators(MVNOs) which according to some media headlines means that now “Everybody Can Be a Cellphone Company”. In Pakistan PTA introduced the first MVNO framework a few days ago. As TM wrote: “MVNO will allow a formal way to these cellular operators to sell of their network capacities to newer marketing outfits that better understand their own customer niches and can probably provider some extra value added services to their crowds.”

PixSenseis one of the few Pakistan based startups which offers an innovative product which is closely related to global VAS providers. Green and White has covered it here.

In India there are a number of upcoming startups which are tapping into this market. An article in Business Standard reports: The over Rs 4,500-crore telecom value added services (VAS) market is hotting up and players are working overtime to offer India’s 170 million strong mobile subscribers a feast of innovative services — all with an eye on increasing their market share and bottom line.

Some of the upcoming value added services mentioned in the article:

  • `Ring To Me’ tones & user generated content
  • Video SMS using avatars
  • Voice SMS (used by Warid)
  • Ad-supported free group messaging service
  • Here’s more from the Business Standard article. 

    Instead of listening to a recipient’s caller tone, subscribers of the `Ring To Me’ service will be able to hear the songs of their choice. Saket Agarwal, chief operating officer, Cellebrum, explains: “One can set different `Ring To Me’ tones for individual recipients and the pricing would be similar to caller tones (Rs 30 for a month).”

    Also, on the cards is a user-generated GPRS-based application. “We will host user-generated images, music clips and personal videos, that will be available for a less than Rs 10 (per download). Everytime, an individual’s content is downloaded, he will be given 10-15 per cent of the price charged,” says Agarwal.

    Cellebrum, on its part, is also optimistic about voice-based chatting and dating services. “Within 6 months, we have seen a registered user base of 1.2 million subscribers for our voice chatting and dating service and we hope to replicate the success into a mobile-based matrimony service that a GPRS or voice-enabled phone can access,” says Agarwal. The mobile matrimony service, expected to be launched in June, will be priced “lower than internet-based matrimonial sites.”

    Meanwhile, One97 Communications, a telecom solutions provider, is willing to bet on video SMS. “A user has only to record his voice, choose a customised mobile avtaar (role) and the chosen avtaar would lip-sync the message to the recipient,” says Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the company managing director. The price of a voice-based video SMS equals that of a voice call.

    One97 has also launched a WAP-based subscription service (Rs 30 per month) that allows users to download non-copyrighted content and stream videos or audio. Sharma claims to have roped in “more than 10,000 paid subscribers” within 2 months and is busy working on utility-based services that include local search, payment of bills over mobile phones.

    Kirusa, another mobile VAS provider, asserts voice SMS has a potential to reach up to 50 per cent of a mobile operator’s subscriber base. (as against 10 per cent for any other value-added application) Says Shashi Bhushan, director (marketing), Kirusa, “Voice SMS, offered by operators like MTNL, Idea, BPL Mobile, has shown that it is affordable and logical evolution to a text message.” Although priced at least 25 per cent higher than a text message, Kirusa predicts that the service is bound to be a success for India.

    Webaroo, yet another telecom solution developer, has launched SMS GupShup, which is a free group messaging service. “SMS GupShup allows users to create personal interest groups of any size and communicate with members,” explains Beerud Sheth, co-founder & CTO, Webaroo. The messages sent by a group creator are forwarded by Webaroo, at no charge, to all members of the group. “In return, we will add a 20-40 character long text advertisement for every message forwarded. This way we make money on each SMS through advertisements and user can communicate with multiple members with a single SMS,” explains Sheth. Already 10,000 member strong, SMS GupShup promises a cheap way to communicate on a mobile social networking platform.

    More on this topic soon.