Monday, April 20, 2009

Informa VAS Growth markets conference - Some insights

I have not been able to write for a while but I am here in Dubai speaking at several conferences on the VAS and MVNO topics and having ongoing BD discussions with parties we have been keep an open and lively discussion for now a number of months

Today I have the opportunity to chair the first day of the VAS Growth markets conference
Link to Mobile VAS Growth Markets conference

Let me share with you some of the notes from the different presentations and Q&A that happened today:
- Mohammed AlSayed, Head of non-voice services Zain KSA shared with us some of the experiences and unique differentiation pillars on the VAS portfolio, which I found really interesting and innovative for both the MENA region and in general
a) Zain KSA has launched a portal with 7 different user experiences both in terms of look&feel and content depending on your classification in terms of segment orientation
b) Also it has been conceived as an outlet for large brands to enhance their services
c) Last but not least is taking a view on promotions associated with events and discovery vs. the typical big bang ATL and then non existent promos

- Pieter Streicher, Managing director of BulkSMS and head of the WASPA association in South Africa did share with us how the market did self-regulate itself through their players and how they have managed to cover the gaps of the regulator (usually more interested on big items and non on creating a clear ecosystem for VAS players and its relationship with customers and MNOs). It is clearly a route than other MENA countries and players could imitate instead of waiting for regulators to take control (if ever) of the situation
- Deepak Halan, Group Services Director IMBR did share with us some insights on the Indian market and how it is still on its infancy and non making headwaves into GPRS or its upcoming 3G roll out. The rural market will be an area of growth in the future and how besides music there has non been really any other advanced services taking a lead so far. Opportunities as games or ad based RBT where on the radar screen

- Sander den HArtog, CEO of Mobitrans (more known in the region for its market leading brand
Mozook) spoke about the road to growth markets, how the difficulty to penetrate them makes itself an opportunity to not so large players to keep working on getting there, how you could see these markets as YES Butters or Why Notter. How they have managed to be present in more than 10 countries already and their ambition to penetrate 20+ more of those large countries. He also spoke about how using ATL for these services in these markets is basically wasting money and how they are using online (through WAP), direct SMS campaigns and SMS based promotions to lead customers to discover. He emphasized that internet access in the region through mobile is larget than internet access through the PC

- and just before lunch Awais Malik from Zong Pakistan (a China Mobile company) spoke about their launch in Pakistan, how basically all the market is still concentrated on very basic VAS services, the importance of simple but flexible and quickly adaptable pricing as key for enhance usage and the need to establish some products as loss leaders on the VAS portfolio
- Simone Ranucci, CEO from Buongiorno HK did have the difficult task to wake us all after the lunch and he well manage to do so. Very interesting presentation on their vision of Mobile 2.0 and their role as enabler of this new Social Media paradigma. Their believe that operators can monetize their own communities better than internet communities moving to the mobile space. Examples like mCAMPUS from Airtel India is an example of this. He mentioned 4 key elements of making these 2.0 services vibrant and successful (4E Engage, Express, Entertainment and experience). He mentioned that the unique positioning of MNO around billing and selling content making them well suited to monetize the Mobile 2.0 environment

- Hani Yassin, VP BD Qualcomm Mena explained to us how Qualcomm is creating an ecosystem of applications and bearers to make the new service generation way more advanced and discussed their services on banking or their MediaFlo Mobile TV platform as examples

- On a very different note was Fredik Almgren from SmarTrust (director of VAS products) who did make loud and clear that still 40% of the users of these markets live with a Nokia 1xxx or 2xxx series and how very simple and SMS based services jointly with the SIM enabled services could make simple and largely-used services (mentioning banking transactions and login procedures as examples)

- Last 2 presentation did take us back from where we began in the morning, some well and advanced MNOs in terms of adopting innovative services and a new type of ecosystem. Vince Parr, VAS 2.0 Senior Advisor to Globe Telecom in the Philippines did exemplify in 5 simple but well defined steps on how to make those services a reality. He did explain how Globe did have to take a new approach even in terms of organizational structure to create its VAS 2.0 propositions. How they have started by creating partnerships with the key brands on the space (the facebook, youtube, yahoo and the likes) being used as a hook but progressing towards their own VAS 2.0 services. He mentioned the importance of "sneaking" packages in terms of pricing for VAS as the mentality in the country is abut trying always in small units or pieces. Finally he did mention again the importance of BTL for the promotions campaigns
A.Ceyda, VAS Director AVEA did describe 3 interesting and successful ways in which AVEA has make VAS a key proposition for them, creating up to 18% of their total revenues during the last year. She described in detail the VAS welcome pack (a bundle with different services) that was offered for free to those customers migrating as MNP was launched in the country last year. She also explained the successful Music services (through innovative content, promotions and features) and did explain their mobile internet efforts to increase penetration (successfully)

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