Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Enterprise VAS: Fresh Turf

Monday, August 03, 2009
Voice & Data


Being one of the few high ARPU segments, the enterprise market is fast catching the attention of VAS players.

With plummeting revenues from voice services, mobile operators are now looking at newer avenues for value added services (VAS). As of now, mainly entertainment oriented services like ringtones, song and caller tune downloads are being offered as VAS. However, to increase data consumption, VAS players are now offering applications and services that meet basic utilities. In this context, VAS has huge potential in the enterprise arena, and the operators are fast realizing this.
The high ARPU segment is very small in the country, and operators will try to get the maximum out of this segment. So coming out with applications which appeal to this segment is on the priority list of all VAS players. The enterprise market represents high value services for an operator, as many of these customers will pay a premium for availability, reliability, and quality of service.
There are two aspects to the enterprise VAS segment. The first is bulk messaging kinds of services, which VAS players have been doing for quite some time for the enterprises. “The bulk messaging part of enterprise VAS was very happening until a few months ago, and even SMEs had started using the service. However, for the past few months, operators have started asking for a termination fee because of which this is not a very popular medium now,” says Yogesh S Bijlani, vice president, sales-APAC, Telenity.

The second segment is for the internal processes of the company. Enterprises are looking at moving the processes to the mobile from personal computers. This has special significance for BFSI, retail, logistics and media. “This will dramatically cut down request processing time and the sales force to meet and capture more customers. The financial institutions can directly reach more consumers even in remote areas, and make interested consumers fill up loans, credit card applications, etc,” says Vinish Kathuria, chief operating officer at Spice Digital.
Spice Digital was earlier Cellebrum. The company has set up a new R&D facility in Bengaluru to develop solutions targeted at the enterprise segment. The facility will develop technology around Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS), and towards integration of ERP systems on the mobile phone.

“It is a big growth driver for us. We have already deployed the system for enterprises in BFSI, retail, pharma as well as for some SMEs. Enterprises wish to adopt mobile solutions to reduce costs and increase productivity. Our solutions mainly focus on both voice solutions as well as others centered around tracking of inventory, finance and HR,” says Kathuria. The company grew by 100% last year, and is looking at a similar growth rate in the current year.
Basically, VAS will help in uploading ERP on the handset of the executive. This would then enable an employee to access various functions like HR, payroll and finance while on the move.
The proportion of data will increase in the coming times, and the applications which one was able to use on the personal computer will also move to the mobile. It is here that enterprise VAS applications come in.
It is easy to understand the interest of the operators. With the revenue from voice service coming down, mobile operators are looking at newer avenues from mobile VAS to increase revenue from data services. Enterprise VAS is one way in which the operators can target high ARPU generating individuals.
In India, ARPU is one of the lowest in the world. Globally, mobile VAS accounts for 25-30% of the total value of what operators generate. However, in India, according to COAI, it is about 10% currently and is expected to contribute 20% of the mobile revenues over the coming three years. The VAS industry in India is estimated to grow at 50% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) leading to a $348.8 mn market by the end of 2009.

According to Capgemini, the spending on mobile communication for enterprises in the Indian market is expected to grow to $2.7 bn by 2010. A number of these enterprises have requirements in the telecom space that are not core operator skill sets, such as managed mobility, M2M services, and mobile enterprise applications.
Enterprise VAS helps in better customer focus for the enterprises. If customers get better services, they are likely to remain loyal and also bring in more business. It gives employees flexibility in business execution and reduces the turnaround time. Employees have everything on the mobile, and don't have to rush to the office for data or consultation before closing deals. So it is a win-win situation for both the enterprises as well as the operators.

BSA Citi Courier is one of the few enterprises currently using VAS applications to get better control of the activities of its field employees. “Earlier we had no link-up with people on the field, and we were not aware of what they were doing. This has changed substantially. To begin with, all the transactions are online, and we know where exactly the employee is and what he is doing. It helped us in increasing the productivity as well as efficiency of the field staff. Also, the employee doesn't have to come to office to file the report. The data reaches us much faster,” says Devesh, director, BSA Citi Courier. They have implemented MobiCollect, developed by Mobiquest, for their field force.
BSA is not the only one. Enterprises across the country are lapping it up. Taylormade Adidas is another company which has recently come out with mobile cards for its customers. “It is basically a web-based program, which offers privileges to my customer. Besides, the customers don't have to carry a plastic card. They have a mobile card, which they would anyway be carrying all the time. It is definitely better than sending an SMS to the customers, since it is cost effective and it also offers ease-of-use,” says Ateet Gaur, head of Taylormade in India.
Cellebrum is not the only one. Most VAS companies believe that the time for enterprise application has finally arrived. Airtel is also planning to focus on this segment. It has recently launched an application which will enable enterprises to access their data and do business from anywhere in the world.
Besides, Mobiquest is another company which is focusing on this segment. Early last year, New Delhi-based MobiQuest launched mobile enabled business applications. The company rolled out Mobibank for banks and financial institutions, and has around fifty such industry specific applications called Mobis.
“The seamless architecture of our mobile enterprise platform is not helping us create business process automation applications on the fly. We have mapped more than 600 business processes covering business areas such as sales, research, supply chain, data collection, media, HR, marketing/advertising, training and industries such as banks, insurance, market research, education, pharmaceutical, consumer durables and more,” says Vineet Narang, CEO of Mobiquest.

The Challenges

One of the biggest challenges associated with enterprise VAS is of course, security. If an employee loses his mobile, the company data can be intercepted. In the business to enterprise segment, once data leaves the company server and rides on public network, it is easy to intercept.
“There are many challenges associated with this segment. The biggest challenge is security. If an employee loses his handset, it can compromise the internal information of the company,” says Suresh T Kumar, GM-business development and marketing at Netxcell.

The enterprises need to feel confident before using it and might have to use a number of authentication and authorization mechanisms for data security aspects.
Besides this, acceptability of the services is another issue which needs to be addressed. “There are certainly some issues related to the acceptability of the services by the users. As of now, it comes under the category, 'good-to-have' but it should move in the category of 'must-have',” says Kathuria of Spice Digital.


There are many dissenting voices as well. Many believe that the time is not right for such applications, and it is only after the advent of 3G that this segment is likely to pick up. “We feel that this is not the right time for these kind of applications. Currently, we lack the infrastructure to meet the demands of this segment. Once 3G is launched, we would be in a better position to offer various services to the enterprise segment,” says Bijlani of Telenity.

With private operators all set to launch 3G services and with the enterprise segment showing interest, mobile VAS is all set to boom in the coming months.

Link:
http://voicendata.ciol.com/content/NetworkingPlus/109080301.asp