TRAI’s positive move for M-VAS industry by introducing Short Code Counsel: Sanjay Goyal
Sanjay K. Goyal, co-founder, ACL-Mobile serves as Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Goyal is an entrepreneur with a proven track record and with over 10 years of international business experience. Mr. Goyal ventured into the emerging area of mobile data in April 2000. At ACL, he has been responsible for formulating business and product strategies and has successfully positioned it as a pioneer in the field of wireless instant messaging in Asia. He serves as Director of ACL Wireless Limited. He graduated with honours in mechanical engineering in 1992 from the University of Texas Austin, USA.
InsightVAS conducts a short interview of him. Have a look:
1. Recently ACL-Wireless changed its name into ACL-Mobile, what was the thought process behind it?
ACL Mobile is one of the pioneer in the VAS industry and has several innovations to its name till date. It has been churning out niche, high-impact products in the mobile space including Bulk SMS, Unique short codes, SMS chat since its inception. It is the first Indian company to get venture capital in value added services in 2000. In a departure from the past ACL Wireless to ACL Mobile ensures that it conforms to the latest trends in the mobile industry and arrives at an identity that truly reflects what the brand stands for. The 180 degree turn from ‘W’ to ‘M’ reflects an identity which is more compliant to the industry benchmarks and augmented the image of a global player for ACL Mobile.
As future growth and future change will come primarily from data services, data and direct to consumer services will be the way form. So we think this is a very big change in the industry and for many years, this will write the theme of apps and VAS. So this change will reflect that change externally and internally both.
2. You are doing more business in international market rather than Indian market, what is the reason behind it and what is your future road map for Indian market?
We are getting 60% of our revenue from Indian market. ACL which has two businesses – enterprise business and operator business, generating equal revenue from both the businesses. Interestingly, all of the enterprise business comes from India and out of the 50% of the operator business, 10% revenue comes from India. So for a company which is earning 60% revenue from India, can’t ignore Indian market. Although, our focus is towards enterprise as well as towards operator business in international markets because in international market, margins are much better and there is far more stability. So being a much happier company, we do not need to depend upon India but it doesn’t mean that our focus is not in India. Infact our single biggest focus area is to drive revenues from mobile internet in India.
3. You are one of the very first providers of P2P services, like mobile chat services; do you see any effect of current M-VAS market on those kinds of services?
A lot of Regulatory stuff has passed us now. But the effect of regulatory has not been as severe as we had anticipated. As far as P2P services are concerned, we are not seeing much growth coming from there as it’s now stagnating. Undoubtedly, one of the most popular services outside India is SMS chat which runs on 30 networks generating 400 million paid MOs per year till date. It continues to do very well as we are not seeing any pressure there, but we are not seeing further growth there. There is stagnancy. Now-a-days, growth is coming from data, as SMS base service has now shown a flat trend. So in the current scenario, we begin to see growth only on mobile internet.
4. What is the current customer base of ACL Mobile in India and in Oversees and what kind of services are in demand in both the places?
In India, ACL’s biggest business is enterprise messaging business (Approx 1 billion messages in a month). We have 800 enterprise or corporate customers and four biggest banks like – HDFC, ICICI, AXIS, SBI. Therefore, we see ourselves among the most credible players in the enterprise messaging space, popularly called bulk sms space. We always focus on very quality customers and quality traffic. About 80 to 90 percent of our traffic is transaction based and we are not at all involved in spam SMS messaging. Although, we have relationships with almost all big Indian operators like Airtel, BSNL, Reliance, TATA and IDEA but in terms of operator revenue, Airtel and BSNL are ACL’s two base customers, which are only for content base service.
Talking about international market, ACL is the first Indian VAS company to go overseas. It is probably the most successful company in the Middle East where Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar are its main markets. We have 26 operators and 40 million registered users internationally. All these overseas customers are for both chat and content base services.
5. ACL has also expanded its horizons in streams such as GPRS and WAP. Tell us about the response you are receiving on GPRS based apps such as Mobile Social Networking?
We are the first to launch Mobile Social Networking – Frenzo was the first product ACL launched in 2007. It was the first mobile only social networking service in India and became very popular. As this was a browser based, WAP based product and we were too early in the market, number of internet users were very small. We also did not have strong monitorization that time. It was an advantage at that time but it was disadvantage in terms of where the market has move going forward. In 2008-09 when global crisis was there, we decided continue to focus on SMS and voice based services rather than the mobile internet because it was consuming more money than it was generating. For last 2-3 years, we continue to focus on SMS service when the business model and monitorization was much clear. Having said that we now have reviewed strategy where we believe that the voice and SMS based services are saturating, and now going forward, mobile internet and mobile data is where the future opportunity lies.
6. Which platform amongst WAP, IVRS and SMS is the most popular among end users when it comes to accessing a service through Short Code?
Clearly, IVR is the most popular among end users in India. The mass market of India for VAS is on IVR because of literacy rate and linguistic issues in India.
7. TRAI has proposed the formation of a Short Code Council (SCC) for easy allotment of these codes to Application Service Providers (ASPs) and Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) separately? How do you see this latest recommendation from the regulatory body?
This is definitely an excellent way forward. After a long time, we are seeing some positive direction and positive move from TRAI as far as VAS industry is concerned as most of the other moves were more of negative to clear some past related issues. The positive moves were missing and only the moves were being made which were demoralising the industry. As most of the countries in South East Asia have this kind of system so I believe it will definitely be a positive move for everybody.
8. Do you feel separate allotment of short codes will help independent application providers to get short codes of their choice?
Yes, TRAI’s this move will definitely help independent application providers to get short codes of their choice in a faster and in a more consistent way.
9. There has been a prolonged demand for integration of a Short Code assignment system across all operators in India to allot every content provider with a single number. How do you see the relevance of this demand?
Most of the countries have this regulation. If the revenue share is not defined then the operators can give a very low revenue share and this may not happen then. To make it more effective, TRAI should definitely mandate and define the revenue share which will be available on the short code in order to stop the monopoly of operators.
New Delhi, 11 June 2012 l Insight VAS