Our Bureau

New Delhi, March 7

ARE you an animal freak but never had the time to have your own pet? Your mobile phone could now make it possible for you to choose from having a pet dog, monkey or even a fish, virtually.

Airtel has launched a new fun feature called Virtual Pets on mobile that allows the user to play and feed the virtual animal.

The service has a health check meter that keeps track of the fitness of the pet depending on the interaction between the mobile user and the animal. The fate of the virtual pet is entirely in the hands of the user, just like a real pet. If the user does not feed the animal regularly or does not take it to a virtual veterinary or change the water in the case of a fish, then the pet can even die. The virtual pet comes at a cost ranging between of Rs 50 and Rs 99 and is available to those with GPRS (General Packet for Radio Service)-enabled handset.

"This will find a special appeal amongst Airtel customers who are pet lovers but do not have the time or they might well be living in houses too small to keep a pet. Such applications have already become immensely successful in other mobile markets like Japan and South Korea," said Mr Mohit Bhatnagar, Vice-President, Value-Added Service and New products, Airtel.

DoCoMo in Japan had launched a similar service under the brand name Tamagotchi. Finnish mobile content companies, Small Planet and Lumo Media, have been peddling a virtual pet named `Kiepo' that lives in a cellular phone.

To experience the service, an Airtel customer using a GPRS connection just needs to download the Mobile Pet from Airtel Live portal. The range of mobile pets currently available includes a dog and a fish, which will be followed up with other pet options as well.

According to Mr Atul Bindal, Chief Marketing Officer and Director, Bharti Cellular Ltd, "Customers are increasingly looking for new means to be engaged and entertained through their mobile devices. The launch of the virtual pet service by Airtel for the first time in the country represents our latest attempt to go beyond the already popular mobile content, which includes ring tones, wallpapers, games." Airtel has tied up with gaming and content developers Mobile2Win and IMI Mobile for the service.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 8, 2005)
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