At the ASSOCHAM Focus09 conference, Ravi Kiran, CEO (South East & South Asia) for Starcom MediaVest indulged in some straight talk regarding mobile advertising in India. Kiran was responding to Shabir Momin, Director at Zenga, who had said that he’s having a tough time convincing the advertising industry to invest spends on a medium (rather Zenga) which he said has a niche, paying-capable audience, and is more targeted, also suggesting that it’s time for mobile to graduate from SMS.

Kiran was blunt in his response: “If you’re asking me a question about why I’m having a tough time (spending on Mobile), then you’ll have a tough time. I can tell you that it will be a tough time for a minimum 5-8 years. Marketing people, whether we like it or not, don’t move as fast as we want them to. Ten years after creation of digital advertising as a medium, that medium is still struggling. It is still 3.5 percent of the Rs. 21-25,000 crores that this country spends on advertising. If you think that people will get evangelized in six months or one year, it is naive.”

Kiran is fairly active on digital platforms, and it didn’t appear as if he was playing down the richness or the potential of the medium; rather, he was being pragmatic about how long it takes to build acceptance among marketers. The problem apparently is that the marketers aren’t convinced yet, though estimates have suggested that India has 15-20 million mobile Internet users.

So what’s your take: what’s ailing the mobile advertising business in India, and what steps need to be taken to build the ecosystem? We’ll update with your views.