Bharti Airtel has announced the launch of voice based portal value added services (VAS) called Apna Chaupal, targeting the rural and semi-urban market.

How to use: Airtel customers will have to dial a toll free number 58080 to access the service. While call to the IVR number 58080 is toll free, customers would be charged subscription rates for the service packs that they have subscribed.

Services offered: The voice based portal will provide services information in the regional language of the customers on  day-to-day activities including agriculture, devotion, job updates, entertainment, education and health. The service will enable customers to access services like learning agricultural techniques, receive instant updates on Mandi rates and Government jobs, listen to live aarti’s, access entertainment services like hello tunes, comedy FM and radio, receive ball-by-ball updates on cricket matches, learn English, seek career counselling, among others.

Some of this sounds a lot like Nokia Life (formerly Nokia Life Tools) on voice.

Our view

Telcos and VAS businesses are now experimenting with pull based business instead of push based that they earlier relied on. Previously, telcos would push the value added services to the customers and often subscribe them to services without permission, and a TRAI directive on VAS has let to a significant decline in services. Since TRAI’s regulation for explicit consent, we have reported on how the mobile web is the new frontier for the billing scam for mobile Value Added Services

On the rural front, we’re not quite sure of what has become of Airtel’s partnership with IFFCO and Reliance Communications’ partnership with KRIBHCO.