The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has extended the date for the implementation of the SMS spam regulations to March 1, 2011, the second postponement so far. The regulations were initially planned to commence from January 1, which was postponed to February 1. While the regulations are still being ironed out, some of the players who operate in the SMS marketing space are still unclear about its various implications and are taking a wait-and-watch approach.
Welcoming the new regulations Karthi Marshan, head - marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group, said, “At Kotak,we only send value added service information and alerts to our existing customers about their transactions and services. Some of the marketing efforts that are happening on SMS these days are shallow and desperate attempts of selling. These things perhaps work in impulse categories, but they do not work in financial services categories where the decision cycles are long.”
Ratnesh Sharma, vice president, OnMobile, notes that the mobile marketing channel is not that big in India. “But with the mobile phone gaining high reach in India and due to CRM-like segmentation features and two-way engagement, the m-marketing game has picked up,” he added.
Ajay Vaishnavi, director - telecom, Indiatimes.com, also expects the number of spam SMS to go down. “I think the violations will come down significantly. But there will be some disruption in the way mobile marketing happens in India. However, I am sure marketers will find other ways of reaching out to the consumers in a manner in which the audience is not affected and does not affect the regulation of the country,” he explained.
Sidharth Rao, chief executive officer and co-founder, Webchutney, is sceptical about how the policy regulations will pan out in India. He added, “Text based advertising as a direct marketing tool has the benefit of on-demand advertising while giving opt-in consumers what they want through timely, selective and contextual targeting, and is a cost-effective solution to marketers’ lead-generation efforts. That being said, there is much more for brands to explore on this platform to engage their audiences creatively and acquire customers effectively.”
Pointing out that they have always placed the consumer’s interest at the forefront, Albert Almeida, chief operating officer, Hungama Mobile, elaborated, “We have always been of the view that good content, products and services will be pulled by consumers and therefore we invest a significant amount of our resources in understanding consumer behavior and their preferences. While this ban on spam SMS will impact business in the short term for most players, in the long run it will just ensure that the ecosystem becomes more consumer-centric where services will be pulled rather than pushed as it is with all consumer centric categories.”
Karthi Marshan, head - marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group
“It has always been our position that just because we have somebody’s mobile number, if we abuse the privilege that we have badgering him/her: a) it is unlikely that we will get business, and b) even if we do get business, it is unlikely to be quality business that is likely to persist as nobody likes to be intruded upon. As consumers, we all know this. I don’t know why we forget this when we become marketers. Our strategy has always been permission oriented, and it will continue to be more so. The thing that is nice for us is that it is now approaching a level playing field where everyone is also required to play the game the same way we are.”
Ajay Vaishnavi, director - telecom, Indiatimes.com
“We are still trying to figure out what the regulation means for the various players. When we speak to telecom service providers, each one of them gives a different take of what it means. To be honest, we are still confused of exactly what needs to be implemented. Some of it is clear and some of it is not very clear in terms of implementation. I think what will happen when this rolls out is that there may be some confusion in the market which will stabilise over the first few weeks. To give clarity today is going to be difficult.”
Sidharth Rao, chief executive officer and co-founder, Webchutney
“With increased usage of mobile internet in India and the medium’s portability, ability to reach consumers on the go and immediacy, brand marketers must evolve, enhance and redefine their mobile marketing strategies. The time is ripe for them to move beyond hackneyed channels of mobile marketing and invest in equally effective, interactive innovations. At the end of it all, brands that are able to deliver tangible value to their customers through thoughtful/meaningful campaigns using a variety of mobile marketing techniques will gain competitive edge and stay ahead in the game.”
Ratnesh Sharma, vice president, OnMobile
“From an important device of communication, mobile phones have graduated to become a very important tool of marketing. The move by the TRAI is aimed at reducing unsolicited SMSes but will not affect marketers who employ a targeted strategy. As mobile marketing evolves, we are witnessing a shift to a pull-based strategy where consumers come to an operator’s portal and request for services. But with the mobile phone gaining high reach in India and due to CRM-like segmentation features and two-way engagement, the m-marketing game has picked up. Mobile marketing when done innovatively need not spam users.”
Albert Almeida, chief operating officer, Hungama Mobile
“With the strong growth in penetration of mobile usage, digital entertainment will see a rapid growth and the onus will be on players like us to keep delivering products and services that have a strong value proposition for consumers. Brands and agencies will need to conceptualise and devise promotion strategies that inform and stimulate consumers to pull the product/service. SMS promotions can now be driven by a pull factor, where consumers are open to seeking information, for e.g. festive season sales from local /leading departmental stores or info on the latest movie releases.”