The December edition of MoMo Mumbai centred on “Opportunities for mobile value-added services (VAS) in rural India”. About 100 people attended the event, which was sponsored by Reliance Communications Ltd.
The discussion, led by a four-member panel comprising telecom service providers and rural application providers, threw up some interesting insights. First, rural does not indicate poor. Service providers found mobile users in rural areas willing to pay good money, if offered the right services. However, local content would be key to growing the rural VAS market, said Krishna Durbha, head VAS, business and marketing at Reliance Communications. For example, a farmer would be interested to know the mandi price in his area, rather than quotes from remote cities. The challenge for an operator is to aggregate content that is as locally relevant as possible.
A feature unique to rural customers is the seasonal nature of their finances. A farmer wants to sell his crop before he pays for mobile application services, said Arun Pande, head of the Innovation Lab at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd in Mumbai. He emphasized the need for local information by adding that a farmer doesn’t want to know the weather forecast for “northern Maharashtra but for his field.”
Aditya Sood, founder and CEO, Center for Knowledge Societies, joined the discussion from Bangalore via teleconferencing. He shared findings from his Mobile Development Report done for Nokia. According to him, information discovery without transportation is a key challenge in rural areas.
Aditya Mishra is an entrepreneur-in-residence at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.