Surprisingly, Google search shows more mobile social networking sites for India than the online social networking sites. Some of the networking sites which have their specific mobile models in India include Fropper, Qeep, Tagg.in, Twitter, JuiceCaster, DesiMartini and iBiBo. Recently, Virgin Mobile India announced a partnership with MySpace for making its social networking services available on Virgin Mobile WAP-enabled phones in India. Nokia had launched its mobile networking platform Mosh some time back.
While globally there are some successful mobile social networking models including zyb.com, buzzd.com and admob.com, in India, the work is in progress but mobile surely looks a great platform for social networking in the future.
1. Currently, SMS based mobile social networks have taken off in a big way, feels Vatsal Desai, CEO, Tagg.in. “SMS is one of the most widely used features on phone as of now, almost on par with Voice. There are popular social networks which also have a mobile version, but as GPRS is not widely popular in India, they have not been able to get much traction.”
2. The growing popularity of mobile social networking can be attributed to youth. Says Prasad Narasimhan, CMO, Virgin Mobile India, “Youth being mobile savvy, social networking on mobiles is a hot trend that we are seeing exploding in India. Currently, keenest users of mobile for Internet access are those between 15-34 years.”
The curve is surely going up and the industry expects a bright future for mobile social networking.
Says Narasimhan, “Broadband connections are expected to reach 100 million by 2012, while mobile subscriptions are expected to cross 500 million by 2010. Thus, the mobile device today offers the capability for youth to connect with their friends on a social networking platform wherever they are, thereby not restricting their access only from their home/ PC. This, coupled with speedier access on mobile platform due to 3G services, will definitely increase the number of people using mobiles for social networking and other purposes.”
3. The biggest advantage of a mobile social network is that one is always connected on the move. Also, they can provide location based services depending on the location of the user, feels Desai.
4. However, mobile social networking needs to overcome some obvious challenges if it needs to grow; the main one being GPRS connectivity in India. According to Desai, the majority of the handsets in India right now are not even GPRS enabled; they only support voice and SMS. GPRS also needs to become affordable for mobile social networks to be more effective. Another challenge is that the operators need to open up walled gardens.
He adds, “'Mobile Social Media’ is restricted only to those who have Internet-enabled phones. What has potential in India currently is SMS social media – as it transcends boundaries of connectivity, demographics, geography, etc. as it is a common feature in all phones. While most phones now are GPRS-enabled, how many are GPRS-activated, is the question to ask. But then, for brands that are looking at a TG that is the high-end GPRS-activated phone user, it can be really effective.”
Prasad feels that the main challenge in the arena of mobile social networking is the accessibility of social networking sites on low end handset models. Availability of such sites on affordable handsets will lead to many more adopters of this platform. 3G deployment will further provide impetus to this trend.
He makes another important point about relevant content. “It is not just about ‘access’ but also ‘reason for access’. Making only access rates and devices affordable at more access points is not enough. The availability of relevant content on the handsets is necessary to promote the usage of mobile social networking as well. Therefore development of local language content, meaningful and necessary services, taking care of entertainment, information and educational needs is critical,” he says.
What it means for:
1. SMS is one of the most widely used features on phone as of now, almost on par with Voice. SMS based networking has great potential
2. The mobile device today offers the capability for youth to connect with their friends on a social networking platform wherever they are, thereby not restricting their access only from their home/ PC.
3. The challenge is that the majority of the handsets in India right now are not even GPRS enabled; they only support voice and SMS.
4. The other challenge is in the arena of mobile social networking is the accessibility of social networking sites on low end handset models.