Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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We Versus Vodafone

February 17th, 2009 · 42 Comments

Today’s Business Standard has an article about Vodafone blocking our shortcode to stop people from subscribing to our (MyToday) opt-in SMS services. The real unstated reason for the block is that Vodafone believes our free SMS services are competitive to their paid services (Vodafone Alerts). So, rather than let the market and consumers decide, they chose the path of blocking a service which has grown word-of-mouth to 3.8 million subscribers in India in the past two years.

[On a side note: Since about 18 months ago, Vodafone has blocked access to our mobile portal (http://mytoday.com) for their Vodafone Live subscribers (which comprise the bulk of the GPRS subscriber base).]

All this is despite TRAI recommending last week in their MVAS recommendations that opt-in services override NDNC, off-deck services are permitted, and operators should not block short codes or mobile portals.

The British may have left India 60+ years ago but their Colonial Cousins still seem to be hanging around the country.

What do you think about this? And, what are our options? I’d love to hear from you.

  • Talking to Vodafone is nigh impossible — their pre-condition is we shut down the free SMS services.
  • We can go the legal route  – but that will take forever. We cannot even go to TDSAT since they only recognise disputes between telecom licence holders. (That is why we had asked TRAI for a light VAS Licence — so dispute redressal can be done quickly by TDSAT rather than the courts.)
  • What ‘Gandhigiri’ can be done to take on this Goliath?

Tags: Uncategorized

42 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Atanu Dey // Feb 17, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Number portability would have solved this problem to some extent. A Vodafone customer dissatisfied with this kind of arbitrary block could simply sign up with a competing mobile company. Right now the mobile companies have some degree of market power.

  • 2 Arjun Ram // Feb 17, 2009 at 7:27 am

    The time has come for a mobile consumer bill of rights:

    - Right to use whatever service/website I please
    - Right to use not to be sms spammed by carrier
    - Right to convert from pre-paid to post paid without waiting for 3 days
    - Right to port my number

    I have found the indian mobile space to be really advanced in certain areas like SMS while the service providers still seem to be stuck in the age of isolation. I have been surprised by the the dichotomy.

    May be they should learn a thing or two from google. Open is the new closed.

    Otherwise they are going to suffer the same fate that the newspapers seem to be suffering off late.

    Good luck with MyToday, I have found memories as Vinu launched MyToday along with Taazza at BarcampChennai.

  • 3 Sameer // Feb 17, 2009 at 7:30 am

    It’s strange how private enterprise has shown a tendency to behave like undemocratic governments and monopolies at the slightest “opportunity” – thwart competition, use completely bizarre logic and arbitrary interpretation of “rules”. This surely does not bode well for the entrepreneurial efforts in this space. Either you’re completely aligned (i.e. market through the big guys etc) or you shut shop! To imagine that voices from the same private enterprise space cry themselves hoarse about open, free markets and level playing fields.

    All the best, Rajesh. Hopefully this is a mere oversight or an inadvertent misreading of the rules, and will be corrected as soon as this is brought to their notice. Of course I’m being optimistic – thats the best one can do :)

  • 4 Gaurav // Feb 17, 2009 at 8:41 am

    MRTPC?

  • 5 Abhijit Nadgouda // Feb 17, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I find this similar to the Net neutrality issue. We, the public, need to be made aware about dangers of giants like Vodafone misusing their power to play the role of a gatekeeper.

    The long term solution has to go the legal path, but you can inform the mobile users about this and get them to take the issue with Vodafone. Of course easier said than done, but if this gains momentum, it can cut through the legal hell.

  • 6 Vishal // Feb 17, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Rajesh – Vodafone is behaving like a dictator and will pay like a dictator in long run. I think we all should blog about it, register our unhappiness with ways of Vodafone. I think MyToday should speak with Vodafone and also go to the courts. This was a long battle coming and it needs to be dealt with firmly as it is not going to go away.
    Is there not a network which wants to make money along with VAS provider by allowing all these services to grow.

    Vishal

  • 7 Content Vs Carriage: Vodafone India Blocks MyToday Longcode | MediaNama // Feb 17, 2009 at 9:32 am

    [...] competes with their paid SMS services model. Business Standard reports this, and the theory has been mentioned by Rajesh Jain, MD of Netcore, on his blog. Jain adds that Vodafone had previously blocked access [...]

  • 8 RaghvendraSaboo // Feb 17, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Till number portability comes into being, revenue sharing with operator is the only way to keep them in good spirits.

    If you can make your subscriber on Vodafone to flood their call center with complaints about the “blocking” that would be Gandhigiri.
    Btw, your services are nice-to-have but not vital. If they are vital, you’ll see the community power.

    Is only subscription to myToday through SMS to shortcode is blocked ? Can’t the users subscribe using web ?

  • 9 Atanu Dey on India’s Development » Blog Archive » Vodafone Blocks MyToday // Feb 17, 2009 at 9:55 am

    [...] Rajesh Jain’s post on this matter for more on [...]

  • 10 Vishal // Feb 17, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Use Media as a plaftorm to raise your voice. Positioning yrself as local entreprennurial company will give you more buy in at media. Not to mention if videshi jagran manch comes on board it can add more fire, but will also make it worse. Going to courts .. in India.. is of no use, top to bottom is corrupt, in these hard times value yr money and focus in right directions. As long as you are open and transparent about the issue they have no hope.

    Spreading the word by blogs is not a bad idea at all. And yes if you can get women power behind you (somehow) you have a winner :-) .

    I’m assuming its hurting in increasing yr marketshare, revenue and profit margins, because in India, its all about scale.

  • 11 Vish Bajaj // Feb 17, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Dear Rajesh,

    It is rather unfortunate that Vodafone is working against the concept of free markets. We should express our opinion to the regulator via industry associations like IAMAI. Legal route would result in a civil case which you rightly pointed out may take a very long time. However you may be able to secure an interim relief which will unblock the services. Another approach could be to file a writ petition on the failure of the regulator to provide a fair regime. This would be dealt with much faster than a civil case.

  • 12 Siddharth Chawla // Feb 17, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I think you should plan a smear campaign.

    Getting your customers to flood their call center should definitely help. This should be carried out with a plan so that this activity does not stop. Ensuring that customers keep on calling or even sending complaint SMS is required.

    You should also flood all the related associations about it. Send mail to everyone on the top of these associations. I am not sure you would get quick response but I guess it will not hurt to keep on repeating this mailers till you get few people to support you.

    You should also write to consumer forums where you should raise an issue that you are giving stuff free whereas Vodafone is charging customers for similar service.

    This blog is good. But also send your complaint in form of article to various newspapers and magazines.

    Siddharth

  • 13 Suhit Anantula // Feb 17, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Rajesh:

    This is unfortunate but a positive thing.

    For one, it shows that you are starting to have some real market power.

    Second, it has started to get some media attention and in turn people’s attention.

    I am not sure if your vodafone consumers know this but if not, You need to communicate urgently with your vodafone consumers on what’s happening.

    If you can, send an SMS through another service (I mean another phone no. etc and within your legal rights) to all your subscribers about the issue and tell them you are working on it or contact vodafone.

    See, if you can propose a revenue sharing agreement with Vodafone.

    Can MyToday be the service behind Vodafone Alerts? Can you share ad-revenue etc.

    And even if it takes a long time, after these options go to the courts. It can bring in media benefits etc.

    However, the critical thing for you is what will be the options for other telecom operators?

    And, can this happen again in the future?

    This is the time for a long term solution. Through regulation or a business deal.

    Cheers
    Suhit

  • 14 Amarendra // Feb 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Here is another unethical case where Telecom Operators are charging PREMIUM RATES TO STUDENTS in HDFC Bank Scholarship Program:

    http://indiateach.blogspot.com/2009/02/telecom-operators-in-hdfc-bank.html

    http://www.hdfcbankmeritus.com/index.asp (see charges on FAQ page)

  • 15 vinu // Feb 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I think the implications of this are more serious than just business: They are blocking the right to information i.e. general information! News.

    They are blocking free access to the rural market which possibly doesn’t even have the resources to get 160 characters of news that is giving them daily delight!

  • 16 Mandar // Feb 17, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Rajesh,

    It is really sad that Vodafone is working against the market neutrality. While Number portability could bring is some sense to these folks, till it gets rolled out, we’ll have to bear with such issues.

    Gandhigiri could be an option. Each one of the subscribers for MyToday who are on Vodafone, should launch a complaint with Vodafone everyday stating they want to receive alerts from MyToday and it is not working. Flood their customer care service with such requests.

    And yes, even if a lengthy process, approaching court would possibly bring Vodafone to the tables or at the least will give your service sufficient media attention to grow your subscriber base :)

    - Mandar

  • 17 Rohit Mishra // Feb 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Agree with Mandar’s Idea. Put a request on the landing page of your product site asking Vodafone users to put a complaint with the customer care. Blogs and twitter can also be a way to build opposition.

  • 18 kasi // Feb 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Rajesh,

    On the legal side:
    Vodafone can always show some 20-30 (even created by them) NDNC….legally you can’t win.

    On the Gandhigiri side …it will be effective only if all your vodafone customers complain about it to vodafone.

    Good luck with your fight.

  • 19 Himanshu Khurana // Feb 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    My suggestion would be to go to the court. May be it will take a long time, but as soon as you start, its going to be covered in media and aam janta will know about their dadagiri. It will affect their brand. Its worth trying!

  • 20 Sunil M. // Feb 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I see lot of comments on NP (Number Portability). How can NP solve the genuine problem faced by Netcore ?
    Agreed, MyToday has customer base in millions. Is “Mytoday” the main criteria for those customers while selecting their operator ? No. They choose their operator based on the call-cost and coverage. Why would they change their operator for not getting MyToday ? Customers need to pay a fee for changing their operator.

    Yesterday it was Bharati, today it is Vodafone, tomorrow who knows who.

    Sorry, for not providing any solution in my comments.

  • 21 Ananth // Feb 17, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I am a vodafone subscriber and have been getting mytoday feeds for over a year now. Are you sure they are blocking for everbody?

  • 22 lolsauce // Feb 17, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    wow… thats anti-network-neutrality at its finest

    Boycott em, they’ll change the policy or go bankrupt

  • 23 We Versus Vodafone, Day 2 // Feb 18, 2009 at 6:20 am

    [...] We Versus Vodafone [...]

  • 24 ashish // Feb 18, 2009 at 10:31 am

    hi,
    one more protest possible to Vodafone.

    see the following page for Appellate authority in case of Vodafone. There are a bunch of numbers/ emails. all of us can write to email address corresponding to our area, and flood their mail boxes. i would write to Mumbai/Goa office about how Vodafone sucks and would never get my money.

    http://www.trai.gov.in/serviceproviderslist.asp

    peace

  • 25 Milind // Feb 18, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I think VODAFONE can be tried under MRTP (monopolistic and restrictive trade practices act).

    Mr. Jain.. please ask your lawyers to to invoke a petition against vodafone under this act. IN the end it would not only get your portal a victory.. it would make all in Indian VAS sector win together.

    All the best!

  • 26 Chiranjeevi // Feb 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    This is the vodafone’s cheapest way of accumulating money into its bank account.

    Like in every movie there is a vilan “jo logon ka paisa hadap ke khata hai” vodafone logon ko loot raha hai. (they are kicking aam admi’s tummy…!!!!!).

    In a way they are forcing vodafone subscribers to be happy with what they are feeding, they hate the one who provides better service then them be it the content or wap based services…..

    It shows how corporates like vodafone can go down to raise their revenues. Arey have better revenue generating models than blocking good services like MyToday.

    Dear Mr Jain….Please do not stop what you have planned….we are all with you.

  • 27 Girish Variyath // Feb 18, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Vodafone’s “Corporate Responsibility” folks at their Global HQ: http://www.vodafone.com/start/responsibility.html might be a good place to start.

  • 28 TheDictator // Feb 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

    What a bunch of whiners !!

    Vodafone has all the right to influence what passes through its network. If you really believe in your MyToday service, then consumers will flock to other networks.

    Rajesh & Atanu please stop crying and truly embrace free markets. Instead of hiding behind govt protectionism, learn to innovate and consumers will follow you automatically.

  • 29 Sathya // Feb 19, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Is that ( blog header image) the vodafone puppy turning its head away in shame ?!

  • 30 Netcore vs. Vodafone « Thoughtcrafts of Sriks6711 // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    [...] from subscribing to Netcore’s MyToday opt-in SMS services. One can follow the story from here with a daily progress here and [...]

  • 31 shantanu chauhan // Feb 21, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Dear Rajesh:
    I think the new recommendation of TRAI (on 14FEB2009) is a big win specially for you. I have seen VAS industry lost to operators when TRAI has open house discussion and you were the only person who have some solid thoughts on how operator are having high handnesss.
    I think with recommendation like NDNC overriding opt-in and requirement of serving all content for GPRS customer, you have achieved quite a bit success in protecting VAS industry right.
    However if other player in VAS were as vocal as you are, things would have been quite different as compared to current situation.

  • 32 Sudhir // Feb 24, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Dear friends,
    Umesh Dodamani is working in Vodofone Bangalore his number is :9731303006.
    I want his company Address Please help me to finding his company address Because he left his home 1 year back only,
    his is not taking care of his family (two childrens (one girl 6 years old and one boy 4 years old) and wife home maker).

    We are register a Dover Harashment Case and Divi Act case from Mahila Mandal.
    he is not ready to attend court also so police is taken arrest warranty on his and his Mother and Elder Brother his is working as a School Teacher near Dharwad

    I REQUEST YOUR HIGHLY ESTEEMED OFFICE TO PLEASE LOOK INTO THE
    MATTER,AND REPLY ME BACK APPROPIATELY.
    REGARDS ,
    Sudhir.I
    9886625217

  • 33 amol // Feb 24, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    please stop mytoday sms service

  • 34 amol // Feb 24, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    please stop mytoday sms service my mob. 9987201225

  • 35 Random: Vodafone, Comments, Reading // Mar 4, 2009 at 5:00 am

    [...] Vodafone has unblocked our mobile Internet portal, mytoday.com. [Background: We vs Vodafone — Day 1, Day 2, Day [...]

  • 36 Vodafone CEO // Mar 5, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Why dont we start a red-chaddi campaign(with the dog’s pic ) and sent it to top exec of vodafone.”just like the pink chaddi”campaign :-)

  • 37 Hyperspeec Transfer Protocol Will Bring The Voice Web | iface thoughts // Mar 16, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    [...] the most important issue would be regulating the mobile service providers, who play the role of a gatekeeper many-a-times. The HTTP Web works because ISPs do not have control, mostly, over what we can do and [...]

  • 38 Internet Business Info » Blog Archive » Report Internet Usage India // Apr 13, 2009 at 3:53 am

    [...] While the internet strategy seems to be visible one needs to see what Advani’s team will do on the mobile. Mobile advertising is not going to be easy because telecom operators are bound to block those sms [...]

  • 39 aban // Apr 19, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    I am fed up with Vodafone’s Call Centre. In last 7 years they have asked me twice to submit all documents like photograph, proof of residence,MTNL phone bill, electricity bill,
    passport,society bill and what not. They never give acknowledgment and every 2 years inform orally that documents are not ‘complete’. Thgis is the quality of multinational.

  • 40 Vodaphone vs MyToday | Symbian Applications // May 1, 2009 at 12:32 am

    [...] status now. Vodafone goes even further and has blocked mobile portal http://mytoday.com Check out Rajesh’s blog more on this. Tags: Ads, airtel, Bible, Choices, Cricket, Horoscope, India, Million [...]

  • 41 Vinodh // May 20, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Here yet another nightmare experience with Vodafone…… i dont understand waht is alll buzz about ZooZoo’s but customer service level is dropped to 0%. I was asked to be on hold for more than twenty minutes when i asked for a senior to talk. The whole problem started when i took a Add-on card for my exisiting number which i am using from five years. My billing mode is ECS. and i get hard copy of my bills to my mailing address which is there in thier records since 4 years. And from past two i am getting callls from multiple Vodafone reps asking for my address verification i requested them to come to my mailing address and get the needful done.. No body came to my home… ann today i am getting a message …. your number has been disconnected…. :) …. allright i called the CUSTOMER CARE…. spoke to Saif .. no help…. and spoke to lady named Supriya … gosh this girl is so unproffessional asking me to disconnect the services if i am not happy and asking me to use Airtel ??????????…. i was shocked… anyways i am planning to stop using Vodafone… i think people working there do not have trust on thier own products… Being loyal customer for Vodafone for more than 5 years Vodafone was NEVER HAPPY TO HELP… thankx vodafone…

  • 42 Finally ONE politician takes the internet seriously, rather VERY seriously! | BG Mahesh | Mahesh | mahesh.com // Mar 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    [...] team will do on the mobile. Mobile advertising is not going to be easy because telcos are bound to block those sms [...]

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