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#MCS09: Time To Move To Services From VAS

“I don’t like this term Value Added Services. It’s time to move from Value Added Services to Services, and put the consumer in the centre,” One97 Communications MD Vijay Shekhar Sharma said at the Mobile Content & Services conference held in Delhi yesterday. Last year, Vijay Shukla of ValueFirst had suggested that VAS be called Mobile Data Services, expressing a dislike for the term VAS.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma delved into some myth busting regarding services : “If we (VAS companies) are delivering Mandi Rates every day, it’s not really a value added service – farmers don’t want Mandi Rates every day. When you can’t accurately predict the weather in Delhi, what kind of a weather update are you sending to a farmer in a remote village, and do they really need it every day? People think that VAS users are the youth? That’s a myth. Pushing music has no Value… there’s no value to the customer. We have to move to a situation where the customer, and not the technology, is at the center. At times operators behave like a pipe, and we (VAS companies) think of outselves as an application provider. We need to have integrated solutions, and not operate in silos.”

He lamented the focus from VAS companies on just getting the next buck, saying “I will push the two wallpapers, and get Rs. 30 from operators. It’s not what consumers want, there’s no value for them. Does the customer care know what VAS is being complained about? Around 40 percent of complaints are about VAS. There’s no standardisation, no customer care (from VAS companies). Talk about pricing – Rs. 6 per minute (for Voice Portals) is a joke. Something has to change. This should not be a business of earning Rs. 30 per month from 50 million customers.”

“Right now we are like in the 1984 era of TV (in India), where Doordarshan was the only channel,and the consumer had no choice. It is inevitable that 1500 channels will come some day. Operators today are bothered about customer delight – they know it’s not about just an access business anymore, because there is competition emerging.”

Frankly, it’s one thing so talk about what should be done, but what is One97 Communications doing about it? Later, we asked Sharma if he’s practicing what he is preaching.

“This is an era of integrated solutions, where you cant separate the pipe from the solution. It’s not that some guys are good and some bad. What are we doing on it? We launched a community platform, where local people were generating content for local people, and that provided value to that set of consumers, and there are other use cases for it. We’re starting to think on those lines. We’re taking a similar approach to PayTM, and instead of trying to just do our own thing, we are aggregating current mobile payment systems, prepaid cards, debit and credit card systems, to offer consumers greater choice. To serve every consumer, we switched to voice.”

“We have to look at the operators and the ecosystems wish, and look to solve the problem for consumer end to end. There is a need to take ownership of the consumers need across the board, including customer care, customer acquisition, FAQs, customer satisfaction analysis every month…Not just a black box on the operator ecosystem. This is in everybodys interest. It shouldn’t be just about making that one sale, but ensuring the customer comes back for more.”

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