Monday, August 31, 2009

Agle Gaane To Copy Karne Ke Liye * Dabanye

Part of my project work involves conducting a Customer Service study. Today I Called up this one customer on his number as per our records and after a couple of rings, a lady picked up and said the customer was in the bathroom and I could speak to her - she asked for my name - I said I was calling from TMFL upon which she suggested that "we should speak alone" - needless to say, I hung up in a hurry feeling quite worried!! I reported this to my boss immediately and he looked at me quite unbelievingly... later on in the evening, he called me to his desk and told me he heard the same lady say the same thing when he called up another customer - it was just a caller tune - incredible.

From Himesh singing (now that’s an oxymoron) his nasal Jhalak Dikla Ja to Nana Patekar’s crazed laughter – chances are if you are calling someone in India on his mobile phone, you will hear any imaginable sound… Sadly, the tring tring is passé. And trust me, no one misses that retro normalcy more than me... Imagine having to make about 50 calls a day in the course of conducting a customer feedback survey and hearing sounds with the genres ranging from Kishore Kumar’s sublime Pal Pal Dil Ke Pas to Akon’s catchy Smack That or even worse – Mithunda’s bizzare dialogue (“Marbo eikhane laash porbe shoshaney” – loosely translated – “If I hit you here, your corpse will land in the crematorium” – this classic is actually from his superhit blockbuster called MLA Fatakeshto)!!! Today, I can empathize with the hundreds of outbound tellecallers and phone marketers who make calls to customers to earn a living – I can only imagine the trauma they face day and day out. Especially if someone sets the caller tune described in para one!

The scary part is, industry experts believe there’s more to come… sample this: “Mobile value added services in India poise to witness significant growth in future. Operators have shifted focus towards providing these services in a market which has observed falling ARPU’s. Over the years the average revenue per unit (ARPU) accruing to operators has been falling, shifting emphasis to alternative means of revenue generation. As average revenue per user decrease from voice drops, and voice becomes commoditized, operators are increasingly looking at data as an additional revenue stream. The end users have also embraced VAS and it contributes between 5-10% of the revenues of different operators. Thus Mobile VAS has become an important element in the growth of mobile telephony in India. The Mobile VAS industry in India was estimated at Rs. 2850 crore at the end of 2006 and was estimated to grow at 60% to touch Rs. 4560 crores at the end of 2007 – furthermore the industry forecasted 39% growth annually from 2007-11. Revised IAMAI & IMRB reports in 2008 suggested that Mobile Value Added Services (MVAS) are to grow 70% YOY to Rs.16520 Crore by 2010.

“Caller tunes” is the most widely used Mobile VAS used by subscribers in India. Figures suggest that over 25% of India’s 140 million mobile subscribers bought caller ring-back tones and ringtones and this is growing at 25% a month!

Caller tunes are basically music pieces (well, at least they started out as music – today they have evolved and mutated into much weirder “sounds”) which are played to a caller (that’s me) when he is calling another mobile phone user (that’s the customer for his service feedback). This tune is set by the user who is receiving the call according to his taste and choice (bhai, after all we live in a democracy – but trust me freedom of choice has never been more abused)

Mobile phones today have moved beyond their fundamental role of communications and have graduated to become an extension of the persona of the user. We are witnessing an era when users buy mobile phones not just to be in touch, but to express themselves, their attitude, feelings and interests. And this is the major reason for widespread popularity of caller tunes - they allow the users to express themselves offering unmatched personalization and customization ( just like choosing the ring tone which users set on their mobile phone and we are forced to hear when watching a movie or enjoying a quiet dinner date!) Essentially, they have become “fashion” (note: not style) statements with their only real purpose being to show off to caller. (The only silver lining is that I have now acquired the uncanny knack of predicting whether I will get a favourable response from the customer based on his taste and choice of ringtone!) And the operators are quick to grab this opportunity by offering an additional service also allows users to copy tunes from others and set as their own. (Lord have mercy!)

Remember the sadhu with the cellphone picture that we all used extensively in our class presentations to show how far along the cellphone industry has come in India? Now perhaps if you call the sadhu’s phone, you would probably hear a bhajan! Maybe I should get a caller tune too… any suggestions?!

3.Mobile Value Added Services in India | A Report by IAMAI & eTechnology Group@IMRB | December 2006