Category Archives: Mobile

Voice SMS – wrong audience?

The Airtel Voice SMS ad (below) is now being regularly aired on most Indian TV channels.

I found it surprising that Airtel seems to be targeting this service at the middle or the top layers of the socio-economic pyramid. Given the general perception that those in the ‘Base of the Pyramid‘ are more likely to need and use voice-based features on mobile phones, I’d have thought Airtel would go after the BoP audience (probably in addition to other segments). It’d be interesting to test this service with BoP users and see whether they’d take to it.

On another note…

Is this also an attempt at changing the typical Indian phone usage behaviour — the innate unwillingness to use voice mail on phones (I’ve heard various theories on this one, will save that for a different post)? It’s still early days, but I still don’t see any sign of a dramatic change in that behaviour!

Also, I realized there is a basic usability issue with the way one has to record the voice message. To send a voice message, one has to dial * and then the number.  Which means, I can’t use the “Contacts” on my phone to send a voice message!! And given how dependent we are now on our Contacts, this is so unusable!


Gadget revenge time

And finally, someone’s realized people aren’t really enjoying their relationship with their gadgets (isn’t that what it is, a “relationship”?). Wired is running a ‘contest’ on documenting the worst thing you’ve done to your cellphone/TV/laptop or any other gadget.

These are the moments when you wish that your cellphone — an otherwise helpful gadget — had nerves and self-awareness so that you could cause it pain. Now is your chance to get even.

We want to see you take revenge on all the old electronic equipment that has bumped you into a higher health-risk bracket from increased blood pressure.

Here’s the entry that I’m voting for:

I had this crappy phone from LG that never got a good signal at my apartment. One day I was trying to send a text and it kept saying “Sending failure. Try again?” After getting that error message for the 100th time I got very angry. I thought about throwing the phone down on my porch but I knew it would smash into smithereens. So instead I yelled “You piece of sh*t!!” and I bit the phone. Yes, I BIT it. The LCD screen never worked again.


Research preview: Business related usage of mobiles by Bottom of the Pyramid users

At last, here’s a research preview (.PPS file | 2MB) of something we’ve been working on lately. In the spirit of ‘open source’, we are keen on sharing some of the work we do (with commissioned research, we don’t have that luxury of course). The idea is to create a dialogue, share ideas, thoughts among fellow practitioners in the research space, and with non-researchers from any discipline/background.

Here’s a brief introduction…

In addition to commissioned research projects, we, at Onward, also conduct on-going research across a variety of topics that may impact Technology, Mobile and Retail industries in emerging markets like India.

This presentation is a preview of a study that we are currently engaged in. The study is aimed at identifying the usage of mobile phones among the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ (BoP) users, especially those who use mobile phones as a way to sustain/grow their livelihood. We intend to document the users’ key behaviour patterns, trends and needs with respect to communication devices.

We would love to hear your thoughts/feedback/questions/comments. Your inputs will be really useful as we continue to dive deeper into this topic.

Back from the break

Well, it wasn’t quite a “break”, but nevertheless…we’re now back to blogging after a long gap. Lots to catch up on and lots to share. Will try and do that over the next few weeks (“try” being the operative word).

Anyways, here’s an ad for Reliance (one of India’s largest mobile service providers)’s promotion for their mobile blog service. This ad has been playing across literally every TV channel for the last several weeks, to the point of irritation (almost)!

But why I’m blogging about it is the huge publicity/promotion that blogging, as a concept/phenomena/culture, is getting thanks to these ads! It will be interesting to see how this ad impacts or increases the overall blogging trend in India over a period of time (assuming the ad does work, of course).

Yahoo’s driving directions in India

First, it was RouteGuru. Now, Yahoo India has launched driving directions, with the added bonus of “auto fares” for that route! Sounds cool. But the reality…

I searched for the route from Old Madras Road to Cunningham Road. The good news is that Landmark-based driving directions (which RouteGuru kick started few months ago) seems to work as well as they do on RouteGuru.


But, here are couple of issues to be resolved:

  • The “auto fare” is far from reality. For the above route that I looked up, the “auto fare” displayed is Rs. 45!!! That was probably the fare several years ago!!
  • The results also show the time it’s supposed to take for that route. And, going by the results here, it’s supposed to take me 25 minutes to get there. Yeah, right! Probably on a Sunday, when the whole city’s under curfew! 😉

Anyways, sarcasm aside, I thought the “auto fares” feature is a really good idea. But, it’s got to be implemented with a reality-check. You can’t release this feature without having tested it thoroughly with real-life data.

Interestingly, I can see this feature working very differently in a city like Chennai. For those unfamiliar with Chennai’s infamous auto drivers, they don’t use the meter at all…it’s just a “flat rate”, depending on their mood or state of mind at that moment! So, as & when the Yahoo “auto fares” feature is updated with more realistic auto fares, this could probably be used by those in Chennai to figure out what’s the bargaining benchmark, especially for those who’re new to the city!

With regards to the “Time” mentioned for each route, this is quite redundant, unless integrated with a real-time traffic monitoring system like MapUnity‘s BTIS application. Maybe it’s on the cards…who knows, but until then it’s quite a pointless, even misleading feature.

Moto’s India success

O&M‘s talking about how their advertising for Motorola’s flip-phone in India has resulted in the product featuring in the Top 10 “hot-selling phones” in the country for the first time (the other 9 are monopolized by Nokia).

The challenge for O&M and Motorola was that India is largely a ‘Nokia’ country. People thought you were stupid if you bought any other phone. O&M decided to flip that around and make it seem that if you were brave, you would look beyond Nokia, which, in the words of O&M executives, was a “mushy world”.

O&M targeted youngsters, who have the maximum urge to prove themselves and show themselves to be brave. They also form the group that likes to experiment. O&M pitched the Motorola versus Nokia war as ‘desire’ versus ‘morality’. In essence, O&M wanted to be the “corrupter of young minds” by being “bad company”.

MotoFlip looked deceptively high-priced with its styling, while it was actually quite affordable. So, the phone was pitched as a phone that you could flaunt. When people see a person with an object beyond his means, their tongues wag. This formed the basis of the communication, and the agency rolled out an ad which had a guy having tea with his parents. The latter question him suspiciously about his whereabouts and whether he has been doing anything illegal, all because the mother finds a MotoFlip in the boy’s room. The tagline goes, ‘MotoFlip. Dikhe itna mehnga, kuchch to log kahenge (Looks so expensive, tongues will wag).’

While this article talks about the success of the phone (especially it’s advertising & marketing), I wonder how much of this positioning was conceived right when the phone was conceptualised. While the ad is clever and gets the positioning across in a subtle-yet-humourous way, it would be way too presumptuous to think that the advertising alone did it for the product. I wish the article shared some background on the other key aspects (possibly, the conceptualisation & product design) of the success story as well.

Users’ unmet needs and how they find workarounds…




This user’s ‘backing up’ 1000 phone numbers from his mobile to his computer!