Mobile Marketing Keynote

I am giving the keynote today at an afaqs event “Mobile Conversations” for which we are also the Presenting Sponsor. It is primarily focused on advertising agencies and brand managers. Here is the text of the talk I am giving, along with the accompanying presentation. (For regulars of the blog, you may find some repetition but it is still nice to see how the story comes together.)

Hello. I am Rajesh Jain, Managing Director of Netcore Solutions. In the next 15 minutes, I want to take you on a journey through the magical world of mobiles.

As marketers, we are in the business of fulfilling wishes of customers of our brand clients and there is perhaps no better channel than the one that the mobile now offers to make dreams come true.

With over 300 million magic lamps in the hands of Indians – and going to 500 million in the next 2 years, the new era of marketing is rising ahead of us. We will have little choice but to embrace it – because our customers’ customers already have! The question really is: how can we do magic with mobiles? And that is what I am here to share with you today morning.


My contention is that Mobile Marketing will be a much bigger opportunity in the next 2 years than the Internet has been in the past 10. And I should know – having started India’s first Internet portals as early as 1995, and now having created India’s only mobile media.

India has, for all practical purposes, missed the Internet boat. The Net has not become a utility in our lives because something else has. The mobile has become our lifeline. It is the way we connect, communicate, share and increasingly, surf. The audience is there on the mobile. And as you are so well aware, advertising dollars follow the audience.

In the next two years, Mobile Marketing through its two avatars of advertising and invertising will be bigger than Internet advertising. I will show you how. But let’s start by seeing why.

The global growth in Internet advertising is in fact a good starting point for our discussion. Internet advertising went from about $1 billion to $50 billion in 8 years. If someone had told you in 2000 that the Internet search box would see the creation of a company with $25 billion in revenue – more than then top 10 US newspapers combined – and $120 billion in market cap, it would have sounded almost impossible. So, things can change – and change quickly.

Indian media is riding a high, but as we have just seen it does not take much time for eyeballs and advertising dollars to switch. In fact, if you just look at the attributes of the mobile, it is not difficult to see why there really is no competition with anything that has come before – and why the switch may happen faster than we can imagine.


The mobile is with us all the time, always-on, always-available. It knows where we are. Our mobile number allows us to be uniquely targeted. Messages can be sent to us immediately. Mobiles also allow instant sharing – whether it is an SMS that we forward to our social circle, or richer media like a photo we click and send to family and friends.

The mobile is the fulcrum for the social lives of the young already. And in a short order of time, it now has become the largest distribution platform – eclipsing every other medium that has come before it.

It offers a variety of touchpoints – from SMS to MMS, from Voice to WAP, from games to videos. It also allows us to respond to the world around in multiple ways – we can send an SMS in response to an ad that we saw at the back of a bus, or make a phone call right away to get details of an attractive offer, or click on a link in the SMS we’ve just received to get more information.

This wholesomeness is what makes the mobile such an attractive marketing platform. But to realise its full potential, we will need to master a new lexicon.


In essence, the mobile is about creating engagement and building relationships.

For each of us, it is about Me like no other accessory. It has as Mass a reach as you can get in India. It supports not just text not also multiple forms of Media – for many of us, it is our camera and personal radio station, and soon, it will become our very own multiplex. Also, the mobile is ideal for use in life’s various Moments – those Free Moments when we are waiting or just bored, and those Now Moments when we need to find something fast.

The mobile is also the foundation for what I call the N3 Web – the incremental web that is the real-world around us. It is about the Now, the New and what is Near.

To be successful on the mobile, marketers will have to adhere to 3 Ps – making sure information is Pushed to people at the right time so they get it effortlessly – with their Permission, of course. The Information sent needs to be Personalised so it feels like it is something they’ve always wanted.

SMS will be the first and most important channel that will tower above all others in the relationship. Of course, people will Search – just like they do on the Internet, but their hunt is for Answers, not an array of links. In short, what they want is Simplicity – which makes the mobile and the brand relationship more meaningful.

To make the most of mobiles, marketers need to think along two dimensions – mobile advertising and mobile invertising.


We are all aware of what advertising is. Invertising, in comparison, is Invited Advertising. The consumer wants to know more about a product or a service and invites information related to it.


What is the difference? Advertising is information tagged to content that people are interested in. It could be linked to a search keyword showing intent, on a website that they are seeing for cricket scores or their social network updates, or it could be on a content-laden SMS that have opted in to receive.

Invertising is information as content that people choose to receive. They thus create a direct relationship with the brand.

So, advertising helps in acquiring new customers, while Invertising is about reducing the incremental cost of contact while engaging with them. Advertising will tell me when a new mall opens near my house, while Invertising can ensure that I know what’s happening there every weekend – as an SMS that is delivered to me on Friday afternoons.

Invertising is the new kid on the block – and one which has potential that is transformational for the way we think of marketing.


In the past, there has been no easy or cost-effective way to build a deep relationship with one’s customer base. Now, with every customer walking around with a mobile phone, this seemingly impossible task becomes trivial – if we can get the customers to opt-in to receive interesting and relevant information on an ongoing basis, delivered straight through to the screen in front of them all the time.

Invertising creates a hotline to every customer – one where a brand can control the conversation, and which the customer actually wants! Invertising works because customers want to stay connected with the brands they like, the shops they visit, and the companies whose products they buy.

  • Imagine the mobile handset company sending an SMS a day for the first 30 days after you buy a phone telling you about a new feature on the phone you just bought.
  • Imagine your favourite bookstore telling you about the new titles that have come in and the special offers they have this weekend.
  • Imagine the toy store providing weekly customised recommendations after you’ve SMSed in the gender and date of your birth of your kid.

Are there companies that do that already? Indeed!


  • TimesNow uses Invertising to pull in people to their TV channel when news breaks – like when Abhinav Bindra won the Gold at the Olympics or when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.
  • FabIndia sends out multiple SMS every month to its subscriber base telling them about what’s new.
  • Meri Saheli, a women’s magazine publisher, complements its print cycle with daily messages on a variety of topics to a subset of the subscriber base that has opted in.
  • Western Railway is now publishing regular updates on its services and new trains and facilities they are coming up with.


Invertising is built around PUSH and PERMISSION. The customer is in control and therefore happy to be given information that helps in their decisions.

There is no better channel to send this information than on SMS. There is no better way to do it than to give your customers the right to opt-in and opt-out. There is no better frequency than daily.

A brand can take 20% of its customer base – the most profitable ones, who are also the most vulnerable to competition — and build a daily relationship with them for just Rs 2 per customer per month. Now, doesn’t this change the dynamics and economics of customer retention?


We have seen how Invertising can make a difference to a brand. What can Mobile Advertising do?

[SLIDE 10]

Advertising can be done on multiple channels that are available on the mobile. One approach is to run ads on websites that people visit on the mobile – and this is not very different from Internet advertising. We are also seeing the emergence of advertising linked to Search and therefore a user’s Intent – on Voice (services like JustDial), WAP or the Mobile Internet (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft), and SMS (much of it being unsolicited spam). In the coming months, we will also see ads replacing caller ring back tunes.

I want to focus more on SMS Ads tagged to opt-in content because this is new, and has much greater potential in a market like India where  over half the subscriber base uses SMS, but only 3% actually use the mobile Internet as of now.

[SLIDE 11]

SMS Ads can be branding ads reinforcing the brand message, or click-to-action ads (where the action can be an SMS reply, a voice call or a click on a URL). Ads can also be sequenced to tell a continuing story over multiple days building customer curiosity.

[SLIDE 12-13-14]

In an interesting ad format innovation, HUL’s PureIt and Colgate’s MaxFresh ran campaigns which invited people to subscribe to short SMS channels which reinforced the message they were communicating and increased the probability of purchase.


So, whether it is awareness (reaching millions) or generating responses (leads), I believe that there is no other medium which can have the same impact that SMS is going to have in the coming years in a mobile-centric market like India.

[SLIDE 15]

So, are you Ready to embrace this future?

[SLIDE 16]

The opportunity in the sunrise industry of Mobile Marketing is going to be large. In my view, as I mentioned earlier, this can be bigger than the Internet advertising market and worth Rs 1,000 crore in 2 years.

[SLIDE 17]

This will come from a mix of three primary streams – SMS Advertising, Mobile Internet Advertising and Mobile Invertising. In each of the cases here, I have made some assumptions on usage and monetisation.

Mobile Invertising is where brands will pay for to build the hotline to their customers. For Rs 12-24 a year, which brand would not be interested? And as customers, we would be more than delighted to get communication from a selected number of brands. This is a blue ocean opportunity – one that has not been hitherto tapped.

Taken together, mobile marketing can take-off to be a Rs 1,000 crore business opportunity for all of us. More importantly, it can deliver value that is several times that to brands.

[SLIDE 18]

What is needed is the Vision and Will to begin. The mobile is a medium that lends itself to creativity on how it can be used. It can morph into what we want it to become. As we have seen, there are many early initiatives that have already been taken. More importantly, the audience is there – waiting to be informed, entertained and delighted. Mobile as a Medium is ready to go mainstream.

[SLIDE 19]

What I have shared today is from my experience at the frontlines of the mobile revolution that we are leading in India. In the past two years, by using the power of SMS, Push and Permission, my company, Netcore Solutions, has built MyToday into India’s only mobile media.

To subscribe to any of our 50+ SMS channels – ranging from News to Cricket, from Health Tips to Beauty Tips, from Jokes to the best movies to watch on TV tonight -people just have to send a single SMS. It could not be easier.

Here are some figures that will speak to how HUGE the potential is.

  • Our free SMS subscription service, MyToday Dailies, has grown to 3.7 million subscribers in less than 2 years – all via word-of-mouth. We continue to add thousands of new subscribers daily.
  • We send 12 million SMS everyday – accounting for 4% of India’s SMS traffic.

The daily SMS we send has become a habit for MILLIONS of people. The right-of-way we have because of that habit we created can now be monetised in various ways: from ads to leads, from paid channels to transactions.

We recently had Nielsen survey over 2,000 subscribers of MyToday. Here are some amazing statistics. The average age of the subscriber base is 25 years. 75% of the 3.7 million subscriber base is less than 30 years. Nearly 80% belong to SEC A and B.

75% of the subscribers read every SMS that they receive. For the vast majority, MyToday has become the primary source of receiving news and information.

40% of subscribers read all ads, and 30% of them have taken action on the ads that they have seen. No other medium comes close to generating awareness or response as SMS ads tagged to targeted content that subscribers want to read.

In short, MyToday has created Media on Mobile in India. And we have worked with over 120 advertisers in the past year who have run more than 200 campaigns to showcase what’s possible and deliver results. In addition, more than 100 enterprises use Netcore’s Enterprise Mobility services. Over a dozen use Invertising.


To summarise, Mobile Marketing can help brands build deep, lasting relationships with their existing customers via Invertising. It can also help them acquire new customers cost-effectively by reinforcing their message and generating responses via Mobile Advertising.

[SLIDE 20]

The Magical wonderland of Mobiles awaits us. We can choose to enter through any of the various doors that invite us in. But, enter we must!

Because, we can be, for millions of Indians, the Genie who makes their wishes come true on the magic lamp that they have in their hands.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.