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UK’s free mobile service provider to enter India

UK’s free mobile service provider to enter India
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First Published: Sun, Jun 07 2009. 09 30 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Jun 07 2009. 09 30 PM IST
Mumbai: UK-based Blyk Ltd, a company positioned as a free mobile service network for 16-24-year-olds, is preparing to enter the Indian market and is in talks with one or more local telecom operators.
Blyk offers customers some free talktime or free texts in return for accepting targeted advertising on their phones every day. In India, the ad-funded company is seeking partners to gain access to their spectrum, or airwaves, and subscriber base.
“Discussions are ongoing (with potential partners). So yes, we do intend to enter India but cannot comment yet on the timing,” said Blyk spokesperson Ann Sarimo.
Senior-level recruitment for Blyk’s proposed Indian operation is already under way, said a communications executive who was tapped for a job. The executive didn’t want to be named.
Blyk has around 200 brands on board in the UK from leading advertisers such as Unilever Plc and Microsoft Corp.
The companies use this network to send ads which could be responded to, coupons and sampling, or to tap the youth base for feedback on new products.
Late last year, Blyk announced an additional €40 million (Rs267.6 crore) of investment to support its operations and international expansion. Last month, it said it would freeze expansion plans in Europe.
The Indian market promises huge potential with the number of subscribers crossing the 400 million mark. Ad revenue from mobile networks is still largely untapped and worth about Rs100 crore.
“The model looks like a win-win for all stakeholders—cellular operators, customers and then advertisers. The youth would certainly lap it up,” said Sanjay Behl, head of branding and marketing operations at Reliance Communications Ltd. “But what concerns me is other target groups who may consider it intrusive in spite of the freebies.”
Behl declined to say whether Reliance Communications was in talks with Blyk for a possible partnership.
The revenue model promises to give a fillip to mobile marketing in India. Blyk would be the first network to open here positioned solely as a free service, although there will be a ceiling on free calls and messages permitted per subscriber.
According to Blyk’s website, it offers a monthly share of £15 (Rs1,135.50) credit to customers on texts, calls, multimedia messaging and data in the UK.
Blyk has a content partnership with mobile marketing and content services technology provider Velti Plc in the UK for “On Blyk”.
The portal acts as a conduit for Blyk members interested in content from relevant brands or lifestyle choices.
According to spokesperson Sarimo, it’s too early to say whether the Velti relationship will extend to countries where Blyk expands, such as India.
In India, HT Media Ltd’s digital business arm Firefly e-Ventures Ltd and Velti have an alliance to offer mobile marketing services to advertisers. HT Media is the publisher of Mint.
State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) introduced in May this year innovative advertising services where consumers are rewarded with free talktime.
Says S.S. Sirohi, deputy director general and head, value-added services, BSNL, “We give some gratification to customers who register for receiving these ads in the form of free talktime. This is valid only for certain cases such as for advertisements on idle screen. If a customer agrees to receive 10 ads on his screen every day for a month, then he can get free talktime up to the value of Rs5 per month.”
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First Published: Sun, Jun 07 2009. 09 30 PM IST