Update: Handygo has inked a similar deal with Reliance Communications. Details at The Economic Times.

Earlier (March 14th, 2011): Idea Cellular has tied up with VAS co Handygo to launch rural information services priced at Re. 1 per minute; the Behtar Zindagi (translates as ‘Better Life) services include live information on weather, livestock, mandi prices, fishery advisory, finance and health schemes, and cover the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, UP West and Andhra Pradesh.

For the content, Handygo has partnered with organizations such as Care India, Aviva Life Insurance, Indian Metrological Department, INCOIS, Hariyali Kisan Bazaar, Network for Fish Quality Management and Sustainable Fishing, Transparency International India, Sonalika, EKO India Financial Services, among others, according to a company statement. The voice based product is available in multiple regional languages, apart from Hindi and English, and there’s subscription fee ranging from Rs. 2 for 1 day to Rs. 30 for 30 days. Note that IMI Mobile* also has a competing voice based rural information service called Cell Shakti.

A few things to note:
– This is a voice based service, and hence can reach out to a larger number of people than just text.
– There’s no mention of embedding the service on the SIM Toolkit, the way Nokia Life Tools is embedded for Tata Docomo. It may be voice based, but usage will always be much easier through a menu. An icon based approach will work best.
– The choice of circles is interesting: According to MediaNama Charts data, Maharshtra, UP (West), Andhra Pradhesh, and Gujarat were significant contributors to revenue for Idea Cellular in Q4-2010: these were four of the top six circles for Idea in terms of revenue, with Maharashtra & Goa being the key contributor.

Strange to see Madhya Pradesh, with a large Hindi-speaking rural population, not in the mix.

Disclosure: IMI Mobile is an advertiser with MediaNama

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