Blog Post

Operators Receive Flak From Content Providers For High Handed Approach

Here we go again: During the panel discussion that brought Mobile Monday Delhi to a close, Manoj Dawane, COO of Airtel received flak from mobile content providers (there were few, but they were vocal) for service operators like Bharti Airtel, Tata Indicom, Hutch and Reliance Infocomm being “exclusive” and preventing the space from developing. The consensus among the developers was that service operators are high-handed and do little to support content providers. Dawane responded that they’d like to be altruistic about supporting the developers, but crores of rupees have been invested into this business, and they need to monitor the space and control what goes online in order to ensure revenue and quality.
He said that they’d love a situation similar to that of U.S. firm Qpass (now owned by Amdocs), where a single, large content aggregator bears the cost of sourcing and marketing content, and the onus of developing the market shifts away from the service operator. The operator just makes its cut for providing the infrastructure, the management of which has been outsourced anyway. However, even in case of a consortium being formed amongst Indian content providers working in a similar manner, Dawane said that the service provider would still like to have some control.
One content provider, who did not want to be named, listed three main hurdles that they face during the entire content delivery process:
1. Bureacratic functioning of the service operator – delays in testing, deployment and offering clarifications and/or technical guidance
2. Business model inordinately skewed in favour of the operator, and a short term, revenue focused approach
3. Delays in processing payment which hinders innovation and creates a barrier to the entry of relatively smaller players.
Another issue that came to light was that service operators do not authenticate the number of downloads that mobile content receives, thus hampering further business development, especially in the branded content space.
The other overwhelming sentiment that pervaded the day long mobile conference was a need for a convergence of a different kind – the mobile space lacks uniformity both in device usability and software platforms. This inhibits a single minded focus on innovating on the content and software fronts since developers have to choose platforms, or modify their softwares accordingly. Also, since different mobile phones have different features, user adoption will be limited to only the tech-savvy.