05:39 pm - Friday 28 April 2017

mVAS players should be given forbearance in deciding pricing of mVAS to its customers: Ajay Vaishnavi

By Gaurav Maurya - Wed Jun 06, 11:31 am

Ajay Vaishnavi, Director – Telecom, IndiaTimes, Times Internet Limited, is a veteran with 17 years of industry experience and sound understanding of Mobile Business Strategy, Product & Content Management and IT / Telecom VAS sector. Currently, he is responsible for Business Management and Operations for the Telecom Business Unit at Indiatimes, that manages India’s most popular short-code service 58888 and offers range of Entertainment and Utility VAS services, like mGreet, Hibuddy, ActiveDeals, StarChitChat among others.

Prior to this, Ajay has also worked with Bharti Airtel, ACL Wireless, and Satyam Infoway. Ajay is a Bachelor of Engineering from BITS, Pilani and has done his MBA from MDI, Gurgaon.

InsightVAS conducts a short interview of him on TRAI’s recent recommendation on bringing MVAS players under licensing regime and formation of a short code council and allotting short codes separately to ASPs and TSPs. Have a look: 

 

insightVAS: What are your views on current status of MVAS industry?

Ajay Vaishnavi:  Last 9 months have been full of regulatory changes for mVAS. The most worrisome factor is that no one talks to mVAS players and impact of such regulations have on business. With new set of recommendations from TRAI out recently, we have to wait and watch for further set of regulations that will come out. We are learning every day to keep pace with these regulations. This all is impacting business and business sentiment negatively.

 

 

insightVAS: How to handle the bombardment of regulations?

Ajay : As mentioned, we are trying to learn with new regulations that are coming out so frequently. We see a new regulation every 2 / 3 months and the confusion lingers on in our minds about the business prospects. Some of the regulations may have right intent but I don’t think they have been thought out well. Unfortunately mVAS players haven’t been taken into confidence before suggesting and implementing such changes.

 

MVAS players expect TRAI’s directions for facilitation of vendors as well for the consumer benefits. There should have been a balance between protecting consumer interest and industry growth. The regulator must come up with incentive schemes for all content providers on bringing new applications in order to enhance innovation in the industry. This will ultimately motivate players to create new applications to boost mEducation, mHealth and mGovernance. We can only hope of receiving fewer regulations from now on.

 

 

InsightVAS: Don’t you think there is need of an open discussion between ASPs, TSPs and TRAI, in order to clear the air in the business ecosystem?

Ajay : Yes, business ecosystem really need to emerge and mVAS players need to be heard out. Unfortunately mVAS players are also a divided lot. Many of the mVAS players are in touch with various stakeholders but looks like no one is listening to right mVAS issues.

 

No one is talking about easier access to launching new services, to getting right MIS, to get timely payments and so on. The only talk these days is about implementation of new regulations and that is it. So, we are living with a tight market place with no easy-way to go live with new services across operators, to get timely payments, to cross-sell products etc etc.

 

insightVAS:  What are your views on bringing MVAS players under licensing regime?

Ajay : As an MVAS player, we have always advocated the need of light touch regulation. It is the part of what we submitted as the consultation paper. We believe this will help bring sanity to the system and that is need of the hour. Many industry people make hue and cry about licensing. They think that it will add obligations that will burden them, but the fact is that even today without licensing mVAS players are required to fulfill all obligations, as all operators push mVAS players to agree to all such obligations that they think fit or as asked by TRAI.

 

Accepting some form of licensing / mVAS registration may only formalize the things and give more say to mVAS players in the eco-system. So, I don’t think one should look too negatively about it and maybe it will help build stronger players and maybe channelize smaller player to work through a larger player.

 

 

insightVAS:  what is your view point on formation of a short code council and allotting short codes separately to ASPs and TSPs?

Ajay : Again it depends on the right implementation. I completely support the formation of a regulatory body to control and monitor short code allotment process. This will largely help the MVAS players to get short codes of their choices to run their services.  But, there are so many unknowns, eg., if this will cover all bearers, including SMS, IVR and USSD?; will it cover rev share arrangement?; will this allow subscription services on such shortcodes etc etc ?? Overall, I am hoping for best to happen and mVAS players should see some benefit.

 

 

insightVAS: Do you see formation of SCC decreasing the dependency  of VAS providers on mobile operators?

Ajay: Up to an extent it will definitely help, but the problem is with the billing factor, which is still dependent on the operator. So, dependency will not go. What use is short-code if there was no suitable monetary billing defined for the same? What will mVAS player do with shortcode, if operator denies giving billing for same or gives low rev share?

 

 

insightVAS: How about MVAS players have some independence in taking their services to the end users ?

Ajay: Yes of course. We are hoping with the light touch regulation, we should see full service VAS players emerge who will be able to directly offer services to end customers. We are hopeful that in future mVAS players can offer services directly with full control on product and customer experience, customer servicing etc. It should be mandatory for every MVAS provider to have a helpline to resolve customer queries / problems and dependency on operator should be removed for the same for the end customer. This will give more independence to the mVAS player. Also, mVAS players should be given forebearance in deciding pricing of mVAS to its customers.

 

As we all know, another major point of dispute is the revenue sharing model. TRAI must come up with suitable formula that defines the cost of interconnection for sms / ivr etc and telcos should pass on the revenues to mVAS players after deducting such interconnecting costs. These steps will make mVAS players more independent and give more financial muscle to market the services directly to end customers and that will ultimately lead to customer education and awareness towards the industry.

 

insightVAS: What is the MVAS scenario in other telecommunication markets apart from India?

Ajay: Obviously every country has different ecosystem. Regulations are more flexible in western and Gulf telecom markets.  In most other countries, the rev share on offer is higher to the mVAS players. However, we have seen that rev share has also decreased in last few years for Indian mVAS players in foreign markets as more Indian mVAS players started venturing outside India. But the business climate is overall more positive.  We are working primarily the South East Asia and Middle East, where Indian content and services has very good demand.

 

insightVAS: what will be the future of VAS in this scenario?

Ajay: At a generic level, my opinion is that if telecom has to survive then VAS will be a very large component of it. Operators cannot now increase the prices of voice, may be by some paisa here and there.  Revenue from voice is not going to grow, much. The only way for growth is non-voice. Let’s not call it VAS. Non voice is both data VAS and non data VAS. That has to grow because otherwise the telecom industry will be stagnant, which I think is unlikely. Looking globally, industry players are making up to 50% revenue from non voice. And we should see similar trends in India in coming years.

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