Walled gardens of the carriers barely help entrepreneurs in a booming economy

This blog is a re-print from an older personal blog – a good entry so I thought I’d share it again. The scenario stands a little changed today.

India’s carriers are amongst the fastest growing in the world. So is the Value Added Services (VAS) market here. But it is sad to see that most of the carriers operate strict walled gardens and are extremely slow in launching newer services with the help of entrepreneurs independently. The best that they generally do is that they take up the service within their own brand within their “walled” gardens. Airtel operates a walled service called Airtel “Live” so does reliance with their service “RWorld”.

So if you are an entrepreneur in the wireless VAS space and have some exciting ideas they best that they’d do (with a lot of restrictions) is open up the short codes. Otherwise any other service that involves other than short codes really has to be carrier branded.

The west has traditionally complained that India is best at providing services but will never have the capability of producing their own world class products or platforms which the rest of the world could leverage on. We have the capability to bring out some world class wireless solutions, but in wireless industry the current scenario in India is pretty much one sided – where the carriers want everything for themselves – 80% revenues, carrier branded, closed & walled approach to launching the service, 1 year of exclusivity and so on.

It is shameful to see such huge brands act so selfishly and grab everything they can. This situation is no way conductive to groom and bring out world-class mobile solutions from India I can tell you that they will be more willing to allow TV channels to operate a short code service – “Send a prayer for this person. Save him” and charge the poor consumer on the other end unknowingly at least Rs 10 for that “prayer” he sent in, than allow entrepreneurs to bring in exciting new services that actually benefit the consumer. India is booming but the wireless industry isn’t quite, with a handful of companies operating fighting it out in the wireless space.

We’re hardly a comparison even with a country like Malaysia where over 200 content provider and VAS companies operate on a small subscriber base of less than 20 million. The operators have test labs, device loaner programs, easy signup programs and are extremely approachable. The Indian carriers could learn a lesson or two from them and help the local industry to groom more entrepreneurs and help them with their business ideas rather hog all the revenues for themselves.

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