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Not paper cards , e-greetings big earners today

SMSs are the fastest growing form of greetings, mobile industry say SMS traffic goes up to 200% during New year, reports Jatin Gandhi and Ripu Daman Singh.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2006 20:10 IST

As Internet and mobile penetration in the country increase by the second, the season's greetings economy too has registered a shift from hard to soft.

It is no longer paper cards sent through post but egreetings and SMSes that are generating the money in the business. The country's postal service, Indiapost, is the latest to try and cash in on the phenomenon.

On December 23 this year, Indiapost launched egreetings that combines traditional post with the pace of the Internet. The user selects a greeting on the IndiaPost website and a printout is delivered to the addressee in one day's time, the last leg being covered by the postman.

"Our business is changing and we are gearing up for that," says RRP Singh, General Manager, Business Development Division, department of Posts. "These greetings through epost can be sent to anyone, anywhere with or without access to the Internet," he adds.

The postal department saw a decline of 15.15 per cent in unregistered mail last year. The numbers continue to decline. On the other hand, the 'other business services' category that includes epost registered a 150 per cent increase in revenue.

SMSes are the fastest growing form of greetings. Mobile industry sources say SMS traffic goes up to 200 per cent during the Christmas-New year festive season in the country.

With India's mobile network ever expanding - according to the Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) more than 50 lakh subscribers were added to the existing All-India subscriber base of 9.57 crore in November 2006 alone - the number of SMSes exchanged at this time of the year is phenomenal. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) estimated Indian mobile users exchanged 730 million for 2005-06. Estimates suggest that one-tenth of these SMSes are exchanged in the festive season.

Harish Gandhi, Vice President, VAS & NPD (Mobile Services), BhartiAirtel Limited, said "Statistics indicate that a large number of people greet their friends, associates and family during festivals by sending a card or message on the mobile. This has become increasingly popular and has outpaced the traditional means of posting a card." Gandhi adds that the service provider sees "a huge increase in the SMS traffic on our networks." The cell companies have had to augment their networks to cater to the anticipated demand.

On the other hand, estimated to be worth Rs 250 crores, the e-card market in India is seeing cyber traffic during festive season like never before. "There's more than 25 per cent increase in our user base as opposed to last year and the increase in the revenue share is between 10-15 per cent," says Manish Saraf, senior manager, 123 India, a free e-greeting site. Targeting users between the 14-35 age bracket, the site witnessed an exchange of two lakh cards this Christmas, says Saraf.

Traditionally a leading paper-card and gifts company like Archies too has had to step into e-greetings.

Archies, for instance, charges an annual fee of Rs 300 for the usage of 100 cards. "Our e-traffic is more about last minute buyers and it spikes up during the festive season. Our revenues from e-greetings have gone up by 10 per cent this year," says Pramod Arora, Executive Director, Archies. The company's paper card business registered negative growth last year.

"People who want to send regular season's greetings have taken to the cyber world. Physical cards are preferred by buyers who want specialty cards like musical or handcrafted cards," he says.

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First Published: Dec 29, 2006 20:10 IST