The Digital Services Operator idea has been something I have talked about on many occasions in the past. (I used to call it the VAS Operator.) It basically combines three things – a direct-to-consumer reach on the mobile and Internet, a payment/billing relationship which creates a cash balance, and an open publishing platform for services across multiple bearer channels (Net, email, SMS, MMS, voice).
While mobile operators have done a phenomenal job in capitalising on a variety of value-added services (caller ringback tones, voice portals, content downloads, SMS subscriptions, premium SMS) to create a Rs 5,000 crore marketplace in India, there is much greater potential for this business in India.
We have been working over the past few months to put together a simplified payment mechanism which allows people to create a cash balance (just like they do for voice minutes with mobile operators in prepaid accounts) and a publishing and discovery platform to enable a variety of services to get created and flourish.
I wrote recently that in the Indian digital space there were two things which were critical for survival and value creation: a multi-modal strategy which combined the Internet and mobile, and a multi-monetisation strategy which diversified the revenue streams. One of the reasons few companies have thrived in the digital space in India is because they have not followed both these dictums, and have thus created narrowly focused businesses. This is what needs to change – and my hope is that we can do that via our Digital Services Operator business, which we will launch shortly.