Published November 1st, 2006 by

Probir Roy Rediff interview with Probir Roy, co-founder and director, PayMate.

PayMate is a mobile payments company spun off by founders of Coruscant Tec. Sherpalo Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, two of Silicon Valley’s most reputed venture capital firms invested about $5 million in the company this year.

You can soon pay your shopping, restaurant, credit card, and electricity bills, and even send money to someone through your mobile phone! PayMate is here with a mobile payment solution, which offers convenience and flexibility of making payments by simply sending an SMS.

Paymate has 15 merchants today, including Rediff.com, Cleartrip, Futurebazaar, Gili, JeevanSathi, 99acres, Naukri.com, Telebrands, Dish TV, OnMobile, VSNL, Fun Republic, Inox, PVR, Fame Adlabs and Travelmartindia.

Will Indians accept a mobile payment system?

In India many prepaid top-ups are done through SMS. There are banks — like Citibank — that provide this service and there are half-a-million people who have registered as prepaid top-up users through SMS. Half of this group consists of Citibank customers. So our prepaid service will be an adjunct to the existing service.

How many people have registered for the services?

There has been a fair amount of interest in our service. But it’s still early days as this kind of a service takes time. We have to build on the mobile payment category. It will be a long and hard route because it’s about changing people’s attitude and mindset. Television sets, washing machines, ATMs and credit cards have taken years to pick up. So we need to think from a long-term perspective.

Its interesting that he sees a connection between India’s success in the services industry and British Raj.

India has remained a service-oriented country? Is this a good trend or should there be more focus on product development?

Product development is very important, but we have no track record in creating successful products. We are not a product-making country. We are very good in services, it’s a part of our culture. We were under the British rule so we are more service-oriented; we want to work for people.

Related: Consumer adoption is the biggest challenge: PayMate

Published October 21st, 2006 by

Knowledge@Wharton interviewed Indian internet icon Rajesh Jain.

Rajesh started India’s first internet portal — IndiaWorld — which was sold in November 1999 for $115 million to Sify. He is now the CEO of Netcore, the company where I work.

I believe another dimension will define the future of the Internet in India, and that’s going to be built around the mobile phone. Given the way that mobile phones have taken off in India during the past four to five years, I am convinced that more people in India will access the Internet through mobile phones than through computers linked to narrowband or broadband connections. We need to start thinking about the mobile Internet differently than we do about the PC Internet.

For me, three words help define the mobile Internet. They are: now, near and new. “Now” is about what is happening right now in real time. Wherever I am, I can find the latest cricket scores or the top news stories because my mobile phone is always with me. “Near” is about location — it can be as small as a neighborhood or it could be a city. If I’m about to take a flight this evening, could I get an alert on my mobile phone if the flight is delayed? Some of this is starting to happen, but it needs to happen a lot more. It could make a real difference to people’s lives. Finally, “new” is about new stuff in which I might be interested. Just as a search engine like Google is a good way to find material that has been published in the past, the mobile phone is a great way to keep in touch with future or incremental content. If there is a sale, it should be possible for my book store to send me an alert and suggest business books that I might find interesting.

Published June 10th, 2006 by

Sahad of ContentSutra has done an interview with Rajiv Hiranandani of mobile content provider Mobile2Win.

The company is from Alok Kejriwal’s Contests2Win stable. It was set up in September 2003 and employs 90 people currently.

He makes some interesting points. Overall a good interview to read.

We are not a media company. A B2C model requires hundreds of crores of investment. We are a mobile content aggregator, enabler of wireless solutions to media companies and wireless content to telecom service providers…

To enter B2C, we have to move into an inflection point. That is some 35-40 million GPRS connections. But we have only 10-15 million GPRS connections now. So our model currently is B2B…

It’s all a distribution game. If you have good content plus last-mile access, then you are a winner.

And some predictions.

Off portal is going to be the next big thing. It will be basically driven by media companies…

There will be third party billing in the next seven to eight months. Reliance and Hutch would also be introducing the third party billing…

Operator will just provide the pipe and there will be a situation where they get around 3-4 per cent of the revenues.

Published June 2nd, 2006 by

Business Standard has an interview with outgoing Nokia India head Sanjeev Sharma, who will quit the company on June 30.

Sanjeev Sharma stepped down as MD of Nokia India after he was asked to move to Singapore as regional head of marketing. He declined to go abroad for a larger role in Nokia because he thought “India is were the action is

Published May 17th, 2006 by

Sunit Mittal shares the problems faced by Bharti in its attempts to go global. He says the valuations of operators worldwide have been driven to crazy heights by the Chinese and Middle-East investors.

Asset prices are being driven by the Chinese, who have the go-ahead from their government to go and acquire, and Middle East investors, who have plenty of cash with current oil prices.

Last year (in May), we did bid for Celltel, which is present in about 17 African states. Our bid was at $2 billion but STT (Singapore Technologies Telemedia) bid $2.45 billion and MTC (Mobile Telecommunications Co., Kuwait) even higher at $3.45 billion. We did not even participate in the just-closed bidding for Millicom International Cellular. The bids were just astronomical: China Mobile’s bid was at $5.5 billion beating UAE-based Investcom’s $5billion.

Bharti’s strategy is not to acquire but to grow organically by bidding for licenses in international markets.

We don’t intend to move into the international market in a major way at this point of time. Not that we did not try but there’s total madness in telecom valuations…

There’s no way we would bid such astronomically high prices. We have to move cautiously; we don’t have that kind of cash lying around. But we will keep looking for licences and pick them up if they fit in our scheme of things.

On outsourcing telecom infrastructure and IT:

In the first 11 years of our business we’d set up a total 10,000 base stations. Last year alone we installed 10,000 and this year we will put up 20,000. There’s no way we’d have done this on our own. IBM today has 2,000 people on its rolls running the IT department for us; that’s a large load that’d have otherwise befallen us. Costs are marginally up, but there are no more fires to be put out in quality. Call drops earlier used to be 2-2.5%, now it is 1%. Networks outages have come down.

Source: Financial Express

Published May 14th, 2006 by

ET has an interview with Subhash Menon, founder and Chairman of Subex Systems. Subex acquired UK based Azure, the largest player in the revenue assurance space, a couple of weeks ago.

Subex is a $40-m company and is making an acquisition that is a stock-plus-cash deal exceeding $140 million.

Subex and Azure offer revenue assurance soltutions to telecom operators. They provide solutions for data integrity, wholesale and interconnect billing, international settlements, and fraud management, among others.

Post-merger, the new entity – Subex Azure – would count among its customers 23 of the world’s largest 40 telecom firms, including British Telecom as a marquee customer.

Published March 31st, 2006 by

Sunil Mittal shared his thoughts on new opportunities in the Indian economy and Bharti’s rise as a telecom giant, in his convocation address at the IIM Bangalore. Here are some key points collected from various sources.

Mittal came out of college in 1976. The period 1976 to 1985 was “a period of great struggle, of great pain but one of great learning”.

“Learning that I could not take form B-school because I went straight to business after university. I picked up on the streets. I learnt my lessons on the streets and at every opportunity, tried to assimilate, gather, absorb some of the practices that were required to create an enterprise.”

How Bharti emerged as the winner in the great Indian telecom war.

  • 1985-86 – Mittal launches India’s first push-button telephones. Romance with telecom begins.
  • 1992 – Applies for mobile licence.
  • 1993-1995 saw some major litigation around this area.
  • 1995 – First licence awarded, Bharti gets licence to provide mobile telephony in Delhi.
  • Realises its a big monies game. Difficult times.
  • 1996 – Round two. Big industrial houses who missed the bus in round one jump in this time. Bid goes as high as Rs 85,000 crore.
  • Bharti expands slowly picking up the circles of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Chennai followed by Punjab and Kolkata, among others.

Mittal’s views on the new opportunties in India.

  1. Software, ITES and Telecommunications is a ‘done deal’.
  2. Hospitality, Healthcare and tourism will be the next big waves.
  3. 630 million people in India are of working age, projected to go up to 837 million by 2010 making India a continent of consumers in six years.
  4. India had a huge lead in the manufacturing sector but suddenly, in the last 20 years, China chipped in this area and we lost.
  5. “I personally believe India’s time has come”.

Mittal quotes Gandhiji: “those who try hard with lot of passion, eventually win”.

Published January 2nd, 2006 by

Excerpt from an interview with Promod Haque, Managing Partner of Norwest Venture Partners:

As mobile users in India are increasing, wireless data services and products continue to be extremely interesting investment opportunities for our firm. India also has low credit card penetration, and we believe there are opportunities for companies to create alternate online payment methods.

One such payment method is mChq launched by Mumbai-based A Little World.

Published October 15th, 2005 by

The Financial Express has an interview with Allen Burnes, VP – High Growth Markets, Mobile Devices. Motorola Mobile Devices has established its High Growth Market (HGM) headquarters in Delhi with the senior management team relocating to India right now.

In fact, between 1991 and today, India has emerged as an R&D hub for Motorola. Several critical components of product/feature development are developed here and the country has the distinction of carrying out cutting edge R&D and engineering work for Motorola globally. Just this year, we announced the setting up of Motorola Labs in India and the expansion of the Global Software Group (GSG) from Bangalore to Hyderabad. There was also the launch of the new facilities for Motorola’s Core Networks Division (CND) and the Embedded Communications Computing (ECC) group.

Motorola started selling mobile phones in India in 1995 and was one of the first telecom companies to enter the country. But it failed to capitalise on its early mover advantage. Currently, Nokia leads the mobile handset market in India with a (GSM and CDMA combined) volume share of 67 per cent followed by Samsung and Sony Ericsson with 13 and 7 per cent marketshares respectively. Now, the $31 billion company is planning a come back with a mobile phone for the sub-Rs 2,000-segment to expand its customer base.

Published July 29th, 2005 by

Interview with Salil Bhargava, chief marketing officer of Reliance Infocomm funded mobile game maker Paradox Studios, who leads all international business development, strategy and marketing initiatives of the company. Nothing much in the interview except a few tidbits.

Paradox is aggregating and distributing content to carriers in association with international partners like Global Wireless Entertainment for the Indian market. Internationally, Paradox has acquired licenses in association with 2ThumbZ Entertainment to develop and market games based on Jean Claude Van Damme and BMX Stunt Teams…

Paradox’s games can be accessed and played on Hutch, Reliance and Tata networks in India and overseas. Its games has clocked up to 7.5 lakhs downloads a day – the most number of downloads in the country – on the Reliance India Mobile network.