Ad-funded mobiles coming to India

09 June 2009

NEW DELHI: Blyk, the advertiser-funded mobile phone network for 16–24 year olds currently operating in the UK and the Netherlands, is looking to introduce a similar scheme in India, where the telecoms sector is growing at a rapid rate.

The company launched its ad-funded service in the UK in 2007, where it gives users £15 (€17; $24) a month to spend on calls, SMS and accessing data in return for receiving targeted ads, from brands or sectors they have selected, on their phones.

Advertisers that have utilised its service in the country include Unilever, Puma, Microsoft, MTV, Sky and L'Oréal, and Blyk claims to have an average positive response rate of over 25% from its campaigns.

Ann Sarimo, head of communications and PR at the company, said "discussions are ongoing" with a number of telecoms providers in India, and added that Blyk "does intend to enter India but cannot comment yet on the timing."

The company raised €40 million from its investors last year to fund a further round of international expansion, but has since reined in its ambitions to increase its presence in different countries in Europe.

Pekka Ala-Pietilä, its ceo, has also warned that "like everyone else", the mobile pioneer is "feeling the impact of the world's financial situation", and has thus "taken decisive steps to cut costs and streamline our organisation."

However, Sanjay Behl, head of branding and marketing operations at Reliance Communications, the Indian telecoms company, argued that Blyk's model "looks like a win-win for all stakeholders – cellular operators, customers and then advertisers" in the country.

He predicted young people would "certainly lap it up," but warned that "other target groups ... may consider it intrusive in spite of the freebies."

Bharat Sanchar Nigam, the state-owned telecoms provider, launched a similar scheme earlier this year, giving users a limited amount of free “talk time" in return for agreeing to receive ten on-screen ads each day for a month.

Over 400 million Indian consumers currently own a mobile phone, and this figure is predicted to double in size by 2012, according to a forecast from the Cellular Operators Association of India.

The research firm eMarketer also estimates that mobile adspend in Asia Pacific will reach $6.9 billion in 2012, a global share of 36%, with China and India the main contributors to this figure.

Data sourced from Livemint; additional content by WARC staff