We are not a VAS company
by Thiyagarajan Maruthavanan (Rajan)
This was one of the most resonating message delivered by Viren Popli,(head of Star TV, mobile entertainment) as a representative voice of content & media companies in the Mobile VAS 2008 event put together by IAMAI. Now this might sound like a bold, foolish or even cocky message depending on which stable you belong to but it speaks volumes about the tremendous pressure that the current mobile value chain structures are in right now. I think the usage of term VAS itself is more than a matter of nomenclature, it reaffirms the telco as the centre of network view of the world which is not how inter-networks function. As rightly pointed out by Viren we should stop using that term. If you are a company in the mobile space I think you should also seriously think about usage of that term. From what I know I am sure IAMAI is thinking about it hard too.
More about the whole Mobile VAS 2008 event held two days ago.
What went right
- A packed house with a very diverse crowd consisting of 10-20 % technology companies, 10% operators and the rest as content and media companies.
- The first , third and the last panel discussion were great discussions with extremely interesting insights.
- For a change this was not an event for me where the same faces were seen again.
- Most of the speakers were very eminent and knew what they were talking about. So it was a great download of substance for me.
Things that could have been improved
- 5 panel discussion back to back with very tightly packed seating arrangements with delegates literally elbowing each other made the whole day mentally as well as physically exhousting.
- 2 ( 2nd and the 4th) of the panel could have been done away with to provide more interacting/networking time. (Especially the one on Enterprise Mobility discussion as it was a barrage of marketing pitches from most of the panelists)
My key takeaways from the event.
- The low hanging fruit in the so called VAS market has been taken away.
- There is a large amount of uncertainty in the future of this market(next version), the industry players are divided and are debating amongst themselves whether the market is supply constrained or demand constrained.
- There is a tipping point in the making and some relatively unknown player will shake up the market and wake rest from their slumbers. (I subscribe to the belief that it is supply constrained 🙂 )
- Contrary to what many would have you believe 99% of what is posited in the next generation market of mobile VAS is hype and that includes solutions from old players, telcos and heavily funded startups.
- Newer value chains will be much much different from the old ones (trumpets are being sounded already, see the title of the post)
- Clearly older players in the market will definitely have an edge even in this times of turbulence and they will exert their influence based on their past learnings.
- Mobile Advertising is one of the most hyped up topic and half the people in the room are already doing mobile advertisement or planning to do it in the near future but very few realize of what it is.
- Technology companies are not putting as much as effort understanding the media business as media companies are putting to understand the technology business. I was aghast at how much media companies knew about mobile and how much less of the reverse was true.
To sum up the question is the following
Next generation of the value creation ( & subsequent establishment of value chains) are non initiated because of a coordination failure, who should be a catalyst for it. VC & private equity capital through investment in game changing startups, fat media companies or Telco who have traditionally played that role.