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Cheap content can kill piracy, boost telecom firms

india Updated: Jan 20, 2013 21:35 IST
N Madhavan

A few days ago, I stumbled on a Vodafone offer that allowed me to download any number of songs at Rs. 35 per week. I jumped at it and ran it for a couple of weeks, managing to download a dozen songs - though I could have done more. That's about Rs. 3 a song.

I could have downloaded the same songs free of cost from a dubious website but that would be piracy. And downloading it on my handset on the go saved me a lot of time.

Since mobile handsets have practically replaced standalone MP3 players, it made a lot of sense for me. Someday, when I have the time, I will transfer them to my desktop.

It is clear that time is money and convenience is cash as we try to negotiate a new internet universe amid busy lifestyles. At the same time, great content deserves to be paid for. The right way for content providers is to price things affordably so that pirates look like fools while customers get extra convenience.

Last week, after meeting some telecom industry executives at the Convergence India conference and exhibition in Delhi, I am amazed at how telecom companies responding to new challenges by building out software and business model solutions that promote value-added services and efficiency among telecom operators. Its effect will be felt in the coming year.

This is important for India. With more than 900 million subscribers and cheaper smartphones, the money that operators have to pay for spectrum that is being auctioned has to be recovered.

And, as Professor CK Prahalad said, there is a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. The fortune has to come from affordable value-added services.

It turned out that apart from the Rs. 35 per week offer, there is also a Rs. 5 per day offer. I actually downloaded legal music by Pink Floyd and The Doors at Rs. 1 a song. That's a steal.

I am quite sure that like Vodafone, other operators are catching on to the affordable content routine or will soon do so, aided by independent partner companies that are pushing innovation. This can increase the average revenue per user (ARPU) and make the spectrum scandal-hit telecom industry bounce back.