Tring, tring! Maruti, Dabur & Co woo internal/external customers via mobiles

30 Sep,2011

By Nikhil Menon


Between the Indian Premier League-3 and the FIFA World Cup, 2010 dished out a lot of high-octane excitement that was exceeded only by the marketing blitz surrounding these competitions.


For Maruti Suzuki, getting a piece of the action was important, since it was launching a massmarket car (Eeco) and its new K-series engine around the same time as the IPL season. Also, the company wanted to be seen a young, tech savvy brand that the new generation of sports enthusiasts could identify with.


Since competitor Hyundai was spending huge amounts as sponsor of both events, Maruti had to try something different. Instead of thinking megabucks or bigger promotions, India’s largest car-maker thought smaller – in pocket-size terms.


“With the advent of the Internet on phones, young buyers have become keen users of digital media – so the mobile was an obvious place for us to be in,” says Maruti’s chief general manager, Mr Shashank Srivastava.


Maruti jumped into the IPL fray with a cricket alerts service accompanied by a daily contest. The contest was the ‘hook’ used to reel subscribers into specially-designed ‘Maruti branded zones’ complete with verbal and visual cues related to the brand.


During the FIFA Cup, Maruti ensured that its branding was visible across a portal , which gets a lot of traffic from Maruti’s core target of young, urban males. With 20 million impressions from seven million unique users, the mobile campaign generated significantly better returns for Maruti than all media formats. “We have doubled our digital media budget to Rs 15 crore this year,” says mr Srivastava. Last November, this campaign won an award from the Global Mobile Marketing Association.


Maruti’s successful tryst with the mobile phone is part of a phenomenon that gurus have long been predicting – the rise and rise of the mobile device. Today a phone isn’t just personal; it is fast getting commercial. At last year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google CEO Mr Eric Schmidt said in the context of business strategy, “The new rule is mobile first.”


And it’s not just the Internet giant that thinks so. In India, the mobile revolution and rollout of 3G services have helped create a natural platform for engaging customers in transactional activity . However, the growth in mobile services is predicated on the growth of smartphones and most companies are still playing a balancing act across different generations of mobile technology . Apollo’s medical response service is one such model.


As part of the group’s strategy to touch a billion lives, Apollo wanted to extend its healthcare services to people hailing from areas where the brand didn’t have a presence. Through group company HealthNet Global, Apollo tied up with operators Aircel and Idea earlier this year to provide SMS and voice services to their subscribers. While the SMS service pushed specific health tips to users’ phones, the voice call service was manned by a team of doctors who would collect the patient’s information and recommend medicines based on the symptoms described.


Mr Rahul Thapan, global head of marketing and sales, Health-Net Global says close to half a million calls have already poured in so far and HealthNet Global is ready to take this service to the next level. It is now awaiting TRAI permission to roll out a 3G video consultancy initiative that allows people to chat with doctors on video-enabled smartphones and also upload relevant reports that can be viewed by the physician who can issue a printable prescription. “While we plan to charge Rs 60 per video consultancy for urban consumers, we realise that rural consumers may not have access to smartphones. The government needs to enable this programme at the rural level,” says Mr Thapan.


Companies are using mobiles to target internal stakeholders as well. This has created opportunities for handset makers and operators alike, especially within business mobility. India’s largest mobile services provider Airtel uses its MATE (Mobile Application Tool for Enterprise) platform to offer over 30 enterprise consumer applications that include information sharing, tools for field staff, mobile learning and other tools.


Mr Najib Khan, chief marketing officer-B 2B, Bharti Airtel says that as workforces go mobile, the cell phone will play a key role in keeping information and processes flowing smoothly. “The mobile workforce in India will grow to 205 million by 2015, and 65% of these individuals will have smartphones. Employers need to have a strategy in place to deal with this upcoming trend,” he says.


For the last three months, Dabur has been using the mobile platform to efficiently measure sales, inventory and customer response in its rural markets. Mr George Angelo, executive director-sales , says, “We recently expanded its sales force in the rural market in a big way. But data archiving was a big challenge, and too much paper was being generated. The mobile app (application ) has changed all that.”


The app is being used by approximately 500 sales staff across an initial batch of 200 districts in 8 states. Loaded onto the sales person’s mobile phone, it keeps track of inventory at the level of the village sub-stockist . As the salesperson visits different markets , he punches in sales of products from each village and issues replenishment orders from the district super-stockist . The data is also relayed to Dabur’s head office, and displayed on a giant electronic map. “This way, we know where the sales person has been, orders generated, inventory remaining, values of sales and buying activity from individual villages,” Mr Angelo says. Parallel to the rural app, Dabur also launched another app used by merchandisers to track whether retail stores are meeting their commitments vis-?-vis Dabur products.


The B2B applications of mobile phones are catching on fast. Three years ago, Mr Siddharth Agarwal, founder and CEO, Mobicule Technologies perceived an opportunity in mobile workforce solutions for distribution-oriented businesses. Ironically, his first client was Mumbai’s largest Nokia distributor. “We installed an application on their phones which enabled them to check the retailer’s credit, punch orders into the system and receive approval for the same instantly,” Mr Agarwal says. It’s taken a while for other clients to see the point, but Agarwal says people are today far more comfortable with such ‘futuristic’ solutions.


A case in point is Shoppers Stop, which uses Mobicule’s warehouse software product residing on high-end PDA devices, to scan incoming merchandise and verify it with the retailer’s enterprise software – something that was earlier done manually, with a much lower degree of efficiency. Mobicule claims that since post the implementation, there has been a 17% lowering of stock-outs and near-100 % accuracy in store dispatches.


On the consumer front, companies have seized the opportunity to build services for the urban user whose increasing dependence on cell phones for entertainment and social networking has thrown up many possibilities. For DTH satellite television company Tata Sky, linking its services to users’ mobile phones was a natural move, since research indicates heightened levels of phone usage among youngsters during TV watching hours. “The majority of our users have smartphones and are heavily influenced by their peers on social networking sites,” says Mr Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky. The company recently launched a single, integrated iPhone app that subscribers can use to find out more about current and future shows, order new ones and pay online, record shows remotely , see what shows their friends are watching, and share their thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.


While these services were already being offered individually via SMS, the integrated app brought them together. Mr Mehra says that within days of the launch, the app has been downloaded by over 100,000 users, and now the company plans to introduce something similar on the Android platform as well.


HDFC, too, decided to take advantage of rising Internet usage on mobile phones, and moved its full-fledged NetBanking functionalities to a mobile GPRS site – claiming to be the first bank to do so. Mr Sanjeev Patel, EVP & Head, Direct Banking Channels , HDFC Bank says, “NetBanking has become popular in recent years, and since 3G-enabled cell phones offer much faster transactions, we thought it made sense to combine the two,” he says. While refusing to share usage details, Mr Patel says the response has been better than imagined. “We’ve already achieved 70% of our annual target for the medium,” he says.


While most mobile initiatives in India are beginning, elsewhere companies have already latched on to the medium. The Financial Times reported that an iPad app used by Pepsi ‘s vending machine technicians saved it $7 million in 2010.


Mr Amit Lall, head-mobile marketing, Mobile2Win says one of the factors instrumental in mobile marketing spends growing at a healthy clip, is that it’s possible to target phone users on many fronts -handset , number, operator, circle, usage patterns, etc. He states an example, “We created a tax calculator application for Bajaj Allianz, for people looking to save tax on their income . Their usage details were saved and the company called them back later to get feedback on the app and potentially engage them further.” While this is great for marketers, some worry about privacy being compromised. But Mr Lall says that the choice to interact with a brand is completely in the user’s hands.


Mr Kevin Conway, global director of consumer brands at Missouri , US-based Savvis Inc says: ” The solutions that will prevail in mobile marketing are the ones that will put the power in the hands of the consumer to opt in or out of the services.”


Security and simplicity are issues that will become increasingly important going forward. When Cleartrip launched its mobile WAP site in July 2010, the focus was to throw away any feature that would be seen as unnecessary, without compromising on security of transactions. “We went out of our way to ensure that the site was oversimplified and equipped for any user and handset,” says Mr Hrush Bhatt, Cleartrip’s founder and director (product strategy). Today, the mobile site contributes 8%- 10% of Cleartrip’s bookings.


So what’s next for the not-so-humble mobile phone? According to EMC Corporation and Zinnov Management Consulting, the total cloud market in India, currently at US$ 400 million is expected to grow more than 10 times over the next five years and reach a market value of $4.5 billion by 2015. Mr V Ramnath, Director Sales, Nokia India says, “As enterprises migrate to the cloud – they are not only looking at ROI and scalability but they are also looking at an increasingly mobile workforce – workers who will be able to do business from anywhere in the world. Smartphones , therefore, will emerge as the biggest accessibility tool to access enterprise cloud data for the workforce at large.”



Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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