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Waiting in the wings

HARISH BIJOOR
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Money, at your fingertips _ P. V. SIVAKUMAR
Money, at your fingertips _ P. V. SIVAKUMAR

Cheap smart phones are set to transform the m-commerce scenario.

What’s this buzz about m-commerce now? Do you see it growing?

- Partha Venkatesh, Vijayawada

Partha, m-commerce (or mobile commerce) is the new e-commerce. I am a strong believer in m-commerce and its many platforms of possibilities. This firm belief is, however, for the period that starts 30 months from now. I have been speaking about this for the past two years at forum after forum.

My logic is simple. As of today, we have a total physical market audience of 1.2 billion in India. Of this, the virtual market audience which uses Internet is 148 million. Broadband users are a smaller subset.

Let's move to the mobile space. Here, we are talking a total of 937 million connections. Of this, let’s put duplication numbers at 180 million. We are then left with 757 million unique connections in India — this is a large audience for m-commerce, with the number growing at 8-9 million per month. The future is, therefore, bright for commerce that moves on the mobile phone, and commerce that can get facilitated on the mobile handheld device market at large.

Add to this point the fact that cheaper mobile handsets and devices are slated to make an entry later than sooner over the next 30 months. Aakash is one such. This will make the market possibility boom. M-commerce is, therefore, an idea whose time will come.

The mobile phone is a 24 X 7 on media. It sits closer to our heart than our spouses — physically, at least. It is ubiquitous. And best of all it does not fight with you. Not yet. M-commerce is certainly the future.

Sadly, a slightly more distant future than what m-commerce-oriented companies will have you and want you to believe.

Are below-the-line (BTL) spends growing in recent quarters, as compared to above-the-line (ATL) spends? If so, why?

- Pratima Moorthy, Mumbai

Prathima, bang on! This is absolutely what is happening in many categories. The lead categories in this trend are really the consumer durables, cosmetics, and the motorised two-wheeler segment.

The fact remains that times are tough. Growth has plateaued at large. The macro numbers are not looking exciting. We are a sales economy spoilt by an 8.5 per cent GDP growth rate mindset, and as a marketing economy, we believed in spending ahead of the curve in the years gone by. Not anymore. There is a change in mindset among marketers. There is a clear and perceptible shift of budgets from ATL to BTL.

In many ways, if ATL represents theme, and the ability to build brand image, BTL represents sales and the ability to build immediate revenue requirements. In tough times, cash flow is an immediate imperative. Cash flow is like blood flow in the human body. If it slows down or stops, the body suffers.

Marketers today understand it better than in any time-period gone by, and are putting big bucks in BTL. Money is certainly moving from theme to scheme.

I see this tendency starting first with the big ones who advertise the most. This tendency is yet to bite the smaller players in the market, but expect it to happen.

Samsung seems to have come in from nowhere, but is certainly capturing the imagination of consumers in the space of televisions, durables and mobile phones. How did it do it?

- Parag Arora, New Delhi

Parag, today is the day and age of convergence. Add to it the fact that the consumer is looking for technology that is human friendly, technology that is seamless in its delivery, and technology that is not a part of the “bells and whistles” fraternity of products, but technology that touches lives every day with meaning.

Samsung has been successful in offering this, a little ahead of the curve. A few months ahead of the consumer actually articulating this need and want and desire. In fact, Samsung has been the expert at delivering not only need and want, but desire and aspiration as well.

Ahead of the consumer articulating its need — that's the winning Samsung formula, according to me.

Add to it the fact that Samsung is ubiquitous in its presence across segments. This is a big plus in a market such as India. Further, Samsung dominates across categories. I think Samsung is the only company in this space that has also occupied every screen of our imagination.

The company is in large-format projection systems, television sets, desktops, laptops, and mobile phones. These are the many screens that are relevant to our lives today. Samsung is, therefore, the only multi-screen entity in the country.

Also, this screen is bound to find its way into durables of every kind as well. Onto refrigerators or washing machines with screens, and more! I think they have played the Indian market well, and therefore, deserve the space they occupy. Consumers are very fair to companies that are fair to them.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. askharishbijoor@gmail.com

(This article was published on August 2, 2012)
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