(By Vikas SN & Nikhil Pahwa)

Tata Docomo has launched a location-based advertising service called “Offers Near Me” which will be initially available for its GSM customers in Andhra Pradesh, followed by phased nation-wide rollout. It has partnered with Stay In Touch Mobile, a company which claims to have recently completed a pilot project in Hyderabad.

‘Offers Near Me’ is a location-based opt-in service which will allow GSM customers of Tata Docomo to receive deals, offers and discount coupons from retailers span across FMCG brands, apparel companies, malls, restaurants, cinemas, coffee shops, auto dealers, and many more, depending on the current location of the customer and offers from individual retailers. We’re not sure of this will be a pull based service (in which the customer requests deals) or a push based service, wherein the customer received alerts based on location and preferences, but from what Stay In Touch Mobile co-founder Raj Kiran says, it is likely to be a push based service: “…Offers Near Me is India’s early first location-based opt-in program that allows opt-in mobile consumers to receive relevant deals and discount coupons from their favorite retailers. Advertisers and retailers can also register with Stay In Touch Mobile and create targeted, geo-fenced campaigns to reach out to Tata DOCOMO subscribers with offers when they are at key locations—like airports, malls, at office or even at home.”

The service will be free and and GSM subscribers of Tata Docomo can subscribe to this service by dialing *533*9#. Making this service free is indicative of two things: Firstly, consumer adoption is likely to be quicker since it isn’t a paid service, and secondly, the monetization is likely to be coupons.

Why Not An Established Deals Site? (Nikhil adds)

We’ve never heard of “Stay In Touch Mobile”, and it doesn’t have many deals listed for Hyderabad: only 68 deals, and only for five of those listed on its website. We wonder why Tata Docomo didn’t go with one of the several already established deals, so that there is a wider national spread of offers available, synergy with an online business, and once the technology is tested in Hyderabad, the potential of a speedy national rollout. A new player will take time to build out a merchant network.

If it’s just about technology, then perhaps Stay In Touch Mobile could operate as a deals site aggregator. The decision to go with Stay In Touch Mobile could also have been about revenue share on coupon purchases, since there is a tendency for telcos to keep a bulk of revenues, which a newer deals company might be more open to than an established online venture.

Previous LBS & Deals Initiatives

In June 2011, Tata Docomo had launched Route Finder, an SMS and WAP driven location based service which offered directions through SMS or WAP links to its 3G customers and Smart Pilot, a real time navigation service which offered turn by turn route directions on your mobile phone through visual and voice assistance for Rs 10/day. Apart from that, the company also offers local search services which allows Tata Docomo subscribers to search for places around them through SMS, WAP or through a dedicated app which can be downloaded by sending ‘Search’ to 53333.

In April 2011, Aircel had teamed up with MapMyIndia to launch Pocket Finder, a maps and location service which allowed users to access to maps, points-of-interest like ATM’s, Cafe’s and restaurants, friend-finder services and location specific deals. It had also partnered with Blyk to to offer latter’s mobile messaging services to its subscribers. Airtel had piloted a location based Buddy Finder service in Delhi and Mumbai. A Bangalore based hyperlocal startup Localbeat (previously known as Taazza) also offers location based deals, news, events and directory listings.