In October 2009, Rediff-funded Eterno Infotech, a Bangalore-based mobile company, decided to go global and has since partnered with Bangladesh-based Inforev and Vietnamese VAS provider Mobile Plus for its product NewsHunt. NewsHunt is a mobile application that offers 15 English and regional language newspapers including Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Sakal, Malayala Manorama, Matrubhumi, Dina Malar and Indian Express on the mobile. The application covers a total of 9 Indian languages. Read our coverage of other applications by media companies launched for Nokia’s N97 handset: part 1 and part 2.
Eterno will also be signing an agreement with a Sinhalese firm soon. Inforev is talking to local Bangladeshi papers to launch Newshunt while Mobile Plus has tied up with 2 papers – Vn Express and Dantri. The launches will happen in a month, Chandrashekhar Sohoni, Founder and Director, Eterno Infotech told MediaNama. He said that the company may have to rebrand NewsHunt before going live globally as readers associate the mobile application with India and not an international product.
The company is also planning to enter the regional mobile classifieds space in hand with all its newspaper clients. It will take 2 months to go live but we can expect an early launch next month. “It is a huge task primarily because of computerisation of classified ads,” Sohoni said. Eterno won the Entrepreneur’s Product Demo Showcase organised by Mobile India 2010 in Bengaluru recently.
iPhone App Soon, Pricing
In two weeks’ time, Eterno will offer NewsHunt for iPhone users at a subscription charge of $2 per newspaper. Rates for newspapers and magazines on digital media are rising: when India Today, Indian Express and Financial Express were launched for the Kindle, the newspapers were priced at $9.99 per month and India Today at $1.99. The company reveals that it sees the market as not India, but Indians, the world over.
A by-product that emerged from Eterno’s regional news mobile application NewsHunt is being harnessed by the company as citizen journalism. In the first phase, users will be allowed to comment or post their opinions about stories from their mobiles using SMS. These comments will be filtered for profanity by Eterno and sent to newspaper clients which can choose to publish them. Users will also be able to send news tips in text which will be forwarded to the newspaper’s “web team” whose role it is to watch for incoming news. In the second phase, Eterno will allow users to upload photos.
Sohoni tells us the company made the decision not to offer location-awareness to mobile users sending such inputs as “there is not much interest in the feature”. Also, most users do not have GPS enabled phones.
Nokia Life Tools, Hungama, Idea Cellular
Eterno previously powered Indic languages for Nokia Life Tools, a rural crop information service that was piloted in January 2008. The pilot is now winding up and it is not known if Eterno will be involved with the product’s commercial launch.
It is also planning to partner with Hungama for its product Music Companion which streams music on mobile phones and also offers lyrics in regional languages.
Idea Cellular has been using Eterno’s IndiSMS to send bulk messages in Marathi for over a year now. From 80 SMSs per second and 3 million sent per day, the operator now sees up to 120 SMSs per second and 5 million messages sent daily, Sohoni said.
Currently the company monetises NewsHunt with advertisements and operator subscriptions (with Idea Cellular, news is offered at Re.1 per day). However, it appears that mobile advertising suffices as click through rates are as high as 3-5%, according to the company. Eterno has to split revenues 50:50 with its newspaper clients.
Handset Makers Dont Support Indic?
Eterno’s Indian language rendition engine has bridged a technology gap when it comes to displaying fonts on handsets. For those that do not support regional fonts, the engine intelligently displays content as images so users are still able to view and read. Sohoni claimed there is a reluctance amongst handset manufacturers to offer Indian languages. “Finland has a smaller population than Bangalore, and yet manufacturers offer Finnish compatible handsets but are not doing the same for Indian languages. Today only 10-15% handsets show Tamil.”