Coffee chain Barista Lavazza has announced that it will offer free WiFi internet access at its cafes, through a tie-up with Spectranet, an ISP owned by the Shyam Group. This is certainly a welcome move because most major coffee chains in India do not offer free WiFi, unlike their international counterparts.
According to the company the move is part of a larger strategy and that vistors to the cafe would also be able to download deals coupons from Barista’s website on their devices and present it without the need to take print outs. However, it appears that the deals section will be available to everyone visiting the Barista website and will not be something exclusive to be made available only to people who log-in through Barista’s Wifi connection. So we wonder how the deals part is connected with the internet access, as the company’s media statement suggests. We have been waiting to speak with Barista Lavazza for two days, and will update the post when we hear from them.
Why not offer targeted content?
Coffee chains like Starbucks offer targeted content and news, making available content from partners like Yahoo, Wall Street Journal, Zagat, New York Times, USA Today and others in the US. It also offers a free weekly digital download from Apple’s iTunes. Perhaps Barista can tie-up with local web players like Indiatimes, Network18, Hungama and others to offer local content, live tv streams etc through a customized portal, to make a connection with visitors and to monetize the service.
We wonder if India’s badly drafted Cybercafe rules – which have been finalized (thanks Prasanth for correcting us)– would be applicable to cafes offering Wifi Access. According to the IT Act, “Cyber Cafe means any facility from where access to the Internet is offered by any person on the ordinary course of business to the members of the public”. The rules also direct cyber cafes to obtain ID proofs from users, maintain logs of websites visited by users and to be equipped with the safety/filtering software to the avoid access to the websites relating to pornography, obscenity, terrorism etc.
It might be possible that Spectranet would be maintaining an automated log for users and devices connected. Also, we don’t know if Barista is offering an open network or a closed secure one, access to which is granted on submitting an ID proof or by registering on a launch page with details like one’s mobile number. Cafe Coffee Day also provides internet access through O-Zone Networks albeit on a paid basis.
Tie-up with telcos
Both Spectranet and O-Zone also power Aircel’s Wifi offering, wherein Aircel users can access the internet through Wifi hotspots, charges for which are deducted from their Aircel prepaid balance or billed to postpaid bill. We would like to see partnerships between telcos and coffee chains on the lines of Starbucks-AT&T, wherein a few hours could be offered free in addition to related deals.