Paytm is moving beyond recharges and tickets to digital goods: consumer facing services like caller ringback tones (PTunes), Deals, celebrity chat (Star Talk), Games, Videos and mobile content essentially provided or sold by Paytm’s parent company One97 communications for telecom operators are going to be retailed on mobile by Paytm. “One97 Communications is (now) the company which sells digital goods under the Paytm brand,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma (VSS), founder of One97 and Paytm told MediaNama. This follows shortly after One97 got an approval from the Reserve Bank of India to launch a semi-closed prepaid wallet.
MediaNama readers might remember that one of One97’s key Mobile VAS businesses was the out-bound-dialer, wherein calls were automatically made to users, to get them to buy telecom operator goods and services. That was the telecom operators customer. On the mobile web, though, it is Paytm’s customer, and goods and services are being marketed to them. It’s worth noting is that Paytm began as a white labeled payment solution for merchants: see this discussion from 2009.
Excerpts from our interview with VSS:
MediaNama: How are you going to sell all these digital goods to consumers?
VSS: Depends on what we are selling. Some things will be app only, some will be voice only and one will be Internet only, while some will be app and Internet. We will take a call.
MediaNama: The term marketplace indicates that you’re selling what other vendors are providing.
VSS: That is exactly how it is. With games, Music, Top-up’s, tickets and most of the other categories, we aren’t definitely doing only our services. None of this is made by us.
MediaNama: So how does this work with Videos? You’ve got Videopind, which is a curated video aggregation app
VSS: With Videopind (now Paytm Videos) for consumers, there is no payment. When it goes on an operator platform, it includes exclusive videos which are paid. Paytm Videos is a service which the operator will take to the market.
MediaNama: So how will you integrate videos in the Paytm app?
VSS: No. There will be a separate app for Paytm Videos. Paytm Games will be separate, as will Paytm Top-ups. There will be many apps.
MediaNama: How did you weigh this option versus choosing to launch one application which does everything? Aren’t you confusing things by having multiple apps for different products and services under one brand? Instead of one app which has multiple products and services.
VSS: Unlike a portal which is horizontal, apps are for specific tasks. Inside an app, like a messenger app, you can discover, but you have to have things outside. Facebook Messenger and Facebook Pages are apps separate from Facebook. Apps are for specific items, unlike portals where you can have multiple URLs (and functions).
MediaNama: Then how are you doing things on the web? Why are you taking an approach wherein some things are mobile online, some are web only?
VSS: We will be mobile only. Some of the things will be available on the web, else every thing will be mobile only.
MediaNama: Are you looking at this as a marketing business? As in, marketing for digital goods?
VSS: We used to do content business, we do marketing business and now there is commerce business. We are not trying to be online commerce at all. Videos, games, top-up’s, tickets, everything is being served on the mobile. We understand that there are categories that need the Internet to purchase, and that is it. We are not being platform agnostic: we want to be only mobile.
MediaNama: How many of your transactions are currently mobile?
VSS: A majority of our transactions for Paytm (inclusive of all the sub-segments) is majority mobile. For Paytm Top-ups, we do 2.5 million recharges a month on mobile. I can’t tell you a percentage, or if it is majority mobile.
MediaNama: Are top-ups a majority of your transactions?
VSS: that is true.
MediaNama: What about Star Talk? Is that going to be voice based only?
VSS: There is an app coming. It will have video streaming, and you can click a button and talk to the person as well.
MediaNama: Are you doing anything beyond music in CRBT?
VSS: We have a few things lined up. We believe that categories like music, ebooks, gaming, videos and apps are dominated by Google, Amazon and Apple. In these categories, you can’t fight these gorillas because you need their muscle power. They have a distribution and pricing advantage because they are bundled in the device, and they’ve made the interface flawlessly simple. They’re not for the new players and can only happen when you have equivalent power to go to the customer.
MediaNama: But you are doing games and video.
VSS: Only those being provided by telecom operators.
MediaNama: Why have you restricted yourself to digital goods only?
VSS: I think there is a reason that mobile is a made-to-be-consumed digital goods platform. Globally, if you see Tencent has done a great job of selling digital goods on the mobile platform, and messenger is a great platform. There’s a reason that we believe that being mobile only and mobile first, we can sell digital goods.
We have business offerings in terms of payments and mobile marketing. We are the largest and the most dominant mobile marketing company in the country, and the largest content sellers in the country, and we are aiming to do that in mobile commerce. We are doubling down on mobile commerce as a category. Buyers-meet-sellers is the marketplace story. All marketplaces are in the marketing business, and fundamentally, the two services we offer are marketing and payments.
MediaNama: Are movie tickets also an option for you, or has BookMyShow cornered that market?
VSS: We are in the business of selling as many digital goods that we can sell. We launched bus tickets because Redbus was our partner. If the consumer accepts us as a destination, and we an create consumer value, we can launch a large number of categories to launch, and a number of vertical players can be great partners for us.
MediaNama: If I go to a marketplace, the seller is known.
VSS: In case of Paytm tickets, the ticket ID was issued by Redbus, and we didn’t try and hide that we were partnering with Redbus. We went for the consumer experience, and incredible consumer trust. White labeled isn’t the answer all the time.
MediaNama: Are you not venturing into physical goods because of the reliability and the costs involved?
VSS: Physical goods is a very tough market. We are mobile. I don’t think that today mobile has penetrated in a way that you can sell physical goods on mobile. I know that some players are doing 15-25% mobile transactions, and the traffic might be 25-30%. There is a behavior pattern (that needs to evolve) first, and then you can go ahead.
MediaNama: How does the messenger fit into your plans?
VSS: The messenger is one place where consumers are moving away from device owners platform – google talk, imessage, because these ar enot cross devices. Many consumers are hanging around here, and this is one big opportunity to enter this space