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Innovation at work in VAS India

The Indian brain is at work and nothing in the world can stop him. This week I had a chance of actually meeting some of these brains at work, writes Puneet Mehrotra.
Hindustan Times | By Puneet Mehrotra
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2007 02:18 PM IST

Value Added Services in India

Last week in my column "Indian Cell Phone Surfer" I mentioned India's major innovation spree in the mobile telephony arena despite a huge spectrum crunch. The Indian brain is at work and nothing in the world can stop him. This week I had a chance of actually meeting some of these brains at work. VAS in India is perhaps on the most impressive growth paths in the world.

The Desi Mind at work

Apalya - A TV running on your cell phone right now

Indians are an innovative lot. If you think it's useless pleading babus, begging the government and paying bribes to the high and mighty then just use your brains and take an absolutely new path. It's rather impressive what Shiva Bayyapunedi of has done. In India case Doordarshan has the terrestrial rights for TV on mobile.

Meaning a lot of rubbish red tape between you and watching your favorite channel on your mobile screen. The release of 3G spectrum has been promised for years and still not released. One does wonder by which century private channels would have terrestrial beaming rights for TV on mobile. Doordarshan in May did launch DVB-H.

How many would really want to watch regional Doordarshan or even main Doordarshan on mobile is a question perhaps anybody can answer. So if you want to watch your favorite soap, the latest news or movies on demand all you need is a small 300 kb (approx) application running on cell. The application is customized for most handsets and is available in Java and Symbian.

Currently the services Apalya provides are on demand movies, news, sports, movies, soaps, personalized. They also claim interactive content and have around 25 channels to choose from.

Now that's a real interesting way of dodging the government, the bureaucracy, and international standards and technologies like DVB-H and MediaFlo. Apalya definitely is a very interesting application and maybe even a future hot stock. Yet very few people seem to have heard of it. I guess the problem is the company suffers from an Andhra hangover. India is a huge country and Brand Apalya needs to take that into account.

A Free mobile Service

For years a free mobile service has been a fantasy. And why not. When we can have a free FM, an almost free TV and so many other free things solely driven by advertising why not a free mobile service. Well folks a free mobile service or atleast a subsidized one maybe is on its way.

The working is rather simple. You call a no. and instead of a musical ringtone you listen to an advertisement. The longer you listen the cheaper your call gets. One of the largest VAS companies of India is perhaps also working on it. Or atleast that's what I sensed.

Wallpapers, games and downloads

Wallpapers, ringtones and games downloads seem to figure high on the Indian cell phone surfers agenda. Entire song downloads sadly can't be a mass reality at current bandwidth so its abbreviated avatar in form ringtone seems to be doing really well. The wallpaper downloads on cell is perhaps a good example of the typical Indian psyche. Sex and religion is what sells in real life, on reel and on the cell phone too. Steamy wallpapers alongwith smiling Gods seem high on the downloads.

The last word

VAS in India is one of the hottest business opportunities growing at almost 40% per annum (some even claiming 50%). The market today is said to be over Rs 4,500-crore. This is in spite of a major spectrum hurdle. One wonders if government had kept its 3G promises what would have happened to our economy. My guess is a parallel VAS economy supplying content to the world like no other VAS economy in the world.

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist at and edits

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