58888logoA couple of months ago, Times Internet (Indiatimes) had launched an m-coupon service called ActiveDeals through which mobile users can search for discounts and offers in their cities and receive coupons by SMS, or learn about deals by calling their Interactive Voice Response service on 58888188. In the past, Ojas Venture Partners funded Ziva Software has launched a couponing service in partnership with Open2Save.

head_180Users can sign up for alerts by submitting their mobile phone number on the WAP site or sending an SMS to the shortcode 58888.  Customers can also call up the ActiveDeals IVR on 58888188 and select one of the choices.

Pricing & Coupon Life-span

SMSs to 58888 will be charged at premium rates and can be sent from any network, but the voice service – calls to ActiveDeals IVR on 58888188 is available only to Airtel, Tata and Reliance subscribers. This is limited to three operators due to its pricing – the call will cost Re 1 per minute, Ajay Vaishnavi,  Director Telecom for Times Internet told MediaNama.

Coupons elapse after different periods – a fruit juice coupon lasts for a day while one for sports accessories lasts for 2 months. Vaishnavi was unwilling to reveal ActiveDeals’ revenue model for fear of others copying it, so we are curious to know how exactly this would work. Could it be a fee-based model – everytime a user redeems a coupon by showing the SMS, the vendor pays Times Internet a certain amount?

Deal Categories

Categories being offered are Wine & Dine (hotels), Fast food, Health & Beauty, Entertainment, Home Needs, Electronics and Apparels & Accessories. There are not many deals available yet. Only Delhi and Bangalore seem to have a fair number of offers. Chennai has none. Other cities included are: Hyderabad, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Kolkata, Mumbai, Noida & Ghaziabad and Pune.

Localisation Limits

We tested the service and an SMS was promptly received with the coupon number and the offer. Another SMS arrived after 5 minutes with the name of the stores, address and contact number where we could avail of the discount in the city. The opportunity to better this service would be to identify the user’s location (which can be done by triangulating mobile signal using nearest towers) and sending the nearest store’s address. This could be further improved by sending driving directions (like Sulekha’s classifieds service) or landmarks that will help in finding the store.

Partners, Integration With Indiatimes Shopping; Media Partners

ActiveDeals is powered by 6-7  startups including Hyderabad-based UPto75.com, Delhi’s local search engine Khojguru and Valklub, which is run from NCR by Raakesh S Bhatnagar and Manish Dutta who founded Net4barter in 2000. They are sales partners for Times Internet Mobile and have a focus on retail, said Vaishnavi.

We asked him why did he did not partner with Times’ own Indiatimes Shopping which also has a deals and discounts section and sends you the latest offers on email. He said, “Indiatimes Shopping does not address this segment, it does not do sales.” ActiveDeals may be integrated with it in a later stage, he said.

Times Internet will also partner with print and online media houses. “Since it has a local focus, we will partner with third party, local media publications to promote ActiveDeals on their newspaper or website.” Ads will also be seen on the company’s sister publications Times of India, Economic Times and What’s Hot.

Potential Competition From Local Search, Classifieds

Offering coupons on mobiles seems the logical path that B2C sites such as YellowPages  Classifieds and local search engines like Guruji or JustDial would follow. They already have listings of retailers of all sizes, their addresses and contact numbers, so they have the opportunity to target the same market. MGinger and Moneysaver (shortcode 5607066) also offered similar services via SMS. MKhoj is more advertising focussed unlike ActiveDeals which calls itself a ‘facilitator’. Vaishnavi believes that ActiveDeals is unique because it cuts across domains and it has the trump card of a voice platform. “Nobody has such a scale,” he adds.

Indiatimes recently launched ActiveSearch for searching ring tones, wallpapers, games, animation and other multimedia content on mobiles.

Privacy

The worry most mobile users would have is if signing up for such a useful service will also mean opening up your inbox to a flood of spam text messages. In its terms and conditions, Indiatimes confirms this – “…by registering / subscribing for the said Deal, you agree to receive latest Deal alerts, from TIL, via SMS updated from time to time intimating you about the latest discount offer(s) available in your locality (Default setting).” The good news is that you can unsubscribe from the alerts with by texting UNSUB to 58888.

Currently, user mobile numbers are not being shared with the retailers but this could change soon. “Depending on feedback and the requirements of retailers, we may share our database,” said Vaishnavi. We do think user consent should be separately sought when it comes to sharing user information.