Marketers in conversation with God’s own people


By Pravin Vijay

With rapidly growing mobile savvy population, Kerala presents an exciting new opportunity for marketers. Any action on mobile, like making a call, or browsing internet, or downloading a ring tone, provides an opportunity to engage with customers in a direct conversational mode.  If marketers leverage these millions of conversations happening everyday to promote products and services, it will be a win-win situation for brands, operators and consumers.

It is no surprise that Kerala is leading in mobile density, thanks to high literacy rate and the significantly higher presence of middle income families. Mobile is now seen as something essential rather than a luxury item as it begins to have a bigger impact on social and economic life of Keralites.  Take for example, latest SMS campaign, selling space and other services to devotees for Atukal Pongala. Another unique picture that comes to my mind is that of a mahout talking on a mobile phone, while riding an elephant.  Another interesting case I read recently was about how fishermen in Kerala track market prices and negotiate best deals for their catch, before reaching ashore using mobile.

Mobile – the direct marketing channel

Currently, 95% of total population between 15 and 65 years has mobile connection. When it comes to mobile usage, there is little divide between rural and urban population.  This is amazing when compared to usage of ATM or credit cards, which are yet to take off in rural areas.

Now that everyone has a mobile, what next? It is a question asked not just by operators, but also by direct marketers, who realise the power of mobile channel as a direct marketing tool to reach customers. However operators, being the sole owners of mobile channel and custodians of subscriber data, have a significant role in proving the value of this marketing media.

Many new operators who launched services in Kerala are aggressively trying to attract subscribers with ‘never before heard’ tariff plans. Established players are trying to counter this by focusing on innovation and quality of service. Vodafone launching M-shops or BSNL introducing 3G services are examples worth mentioning in this context. Operators now know that more subscribers do not mean more revenues. The key is retaining them and increasing average usage per subscriber.

Unlocking the potential of conversations via Mobile

The big question is how to leverage millions of mobile conversations to increase usage per subscriber? Operators can do this if they unlock power of subscriber data.

Now marketers have an opportunity to identify music lovers, and categorise them into Yesudas or Chitra fans by looking at their past ringtone purchases.  Once segmentation is done based on profile and past usage data, it is easy to promote and sell relevant products. Now they know whom they should target for selling ringtones from a new Chitra album. Returns for marketers are guaranteed, and subscribers get what they like too. Opportunity doesn’t limit there. Sending coupons from retail music stores like Music Shop to these target segments will add up to marketing ROI.  It is win-win for consumers, operators and brands.

Conversations are no longer just communication; it is an opportunity to exchange value, but the onus remains on marketers. Mobile marketing will succeed if it ensures this transformation.

About the Author

Pravin Vijay, Director of Marketing, Flytxt, has more than nine years of experience working with software companies supplying technology solutions to telcos. He has been a keen observer of marketing strategies deployed by telcos, and according to him, mobile is now assuming greater significance in lives of Keralites, opening up new opportunities for marketers to engage with subscribers in a direct conversational mode.


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