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March - 2008 - issue > CEO Spot Light
Need of the hour Being innovative coupled with delivering user experience
Monday, March 3, 2008
mPortal Inc, founded in 2000, enables mobile content and applications. mPortal’s customers include top tier mobile operators, leading Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), content providers, and Fortune 500 enterprise customers such as Alltel, AOL,
Disney Mobile, Mobile ESPN, Reliance Infocomm, TV Guide, Verizon Wireless, and XEROX. Friedli Corporate Finance has invested in the company.

The convergence of media, wireless, telecom, Internet and consumer electronics has thrown open enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs. The fact that companies like Apple, Google, and Disney are leveraging the telecom boom only indicates that in the coming years we will see more innovative business models shaping up.

In 2006, we clearly saw the inflection point of mobile data applications and services
taking off, and now we are starting to see real numbers supporting the growth. According to Informa Telecoms & Media the global mobile market is forecast to pass 2 billion subscribers and 3 billion by the end of 2010. The increased use of enhanced services over 2.5G and 3G networks could increase data services by as much as 83 percent between 2005 and 2010. Gartner predicts that mobile data services will account for 20.5 percent of total mobile service revenues in 2008.

Service providers are looking for products to increase their customer retention and loyalty, and average revenue per user. The ability to offer differentiated mobile
content and applications in easy-to-discover, download and purchase models, is a key
requirement for service providers.

The challenge for entrepreneurs is to build the right technology that will give carriers a competitive advantage that enables them to increase their data revenue, becomes critical. Entrepreneurs need to focus on building differentiated mobile content and applications leveraging creative charging models that require mobile operators to have a minimal upfront investment and a pay-as-you-grow model.

Today, the dynamics of serving developed markets such as the U.S. is quite different from that of serving emerging markets like India and China. In the former, the focus is on building service offerings around high-end products like smart phones such as Blackberry or the iPhone. In the latter, though there are pockets in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore where high end products are consumed, the market is largely driven by low-end devices. The challenge then is how does one scale up by catering to the needs of lower revenue generating customers in India (but many more customers) as well as higher revenue generating customers in the U.S (but fewer customers)?

Lastly, one needs to understand that the type of devices per se is not the differentiating factor. These days the gap between smart devices like the Blackberry or iPhone and lower end mass-market devices is narrowing in price. It only means that its not devices any more but the software that is becoming the differentiating layer for the way in which services are delivered to the customer. If the success of Apple is anything to go by, being innovative in delivering user experience becomes critical.

The author is the CEO and Founder of mPortal

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