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India will lead innovation in finding right biz models on mobile: Star’s Ajit Mohan

MUMBAI: Being a pre-dominantly mobile market, India will lead the innovation globally, whether it’s finding the right monetisation model or technological innovations to allow access to the last common denominator in accessing content on the small screen.

Ajit Mohan“I am not sure if we have a lot of models to look to in the West. To a large extent, India will lead the innovation on mobile. Models both in terms of consumption and monetisation probably will be first out of India,” said Star India digital head Ajit Mohan during a panel discussion on ‘Making money off the digital native: Sustainable revenue models’ at FICCI Frames.

Mohan said that most of the consumption on Star India’s newly launched video-on-demand service Hotstar is happening through mobile.

“The biggest takeaway from Hotstar launch is that, despite the bandwidth constraints, the Indian consumer is largely ready for a lot more consumption or real content than was being served,” he added.

He also said that from a consumer’s point of view, the OTT space in India has been underserved but now it is fast gaining a market and India needed to shape its own unique revenue model and innovate as it had a mass market for digital.

Concurring with Mohan, Airtel director and CEO, global voice and data business Srinivasan Gopalan said that 93 per cent of internet usage in India happens through mobile. He also said that the answer to what will be a sustainable model on mobile would be a uniquely Indian answer.

He noted that in India customers are used to pay for data than for content. He also said that how ecosystem develops is down to relationships and collaborations between operators and content providers.

“In this world, we have a different relationship where billing typically happens through the operator. Payment happens through the operator. Content providers must integrate more with operators as it makes a lot more sense,” Gopalan averred.

He said that Airtel has seen success by bundling content with data. He also said that over time consumers would want to pay for content and the industry would figure out the right advertising model.

However, he cautioned that unlike the West where content producers are known to charge high fees from consumers in India, sachet pricing would work.

Yahoo India MD Gurmit Singh said that key to building a sustainable revenue model in digital is to understand the audiences’ choice and preferences. The technology today was allowing the service providers and content creators to collect more data that could help in understanding a consumer’s needs.

However, he added that advertisements need to be in a subtle and receptive environment, rather than being forced for increasing the probability of them being consumed and viewed by the audience.

Dragongate CEO William Pfeiffer said that bandwidth limitation, high data charges, content size, piracy, payment mode, pricing and content production and aggregation were some of the major issues that over-the-top (OTT) content faced in India.

Pfeiffer said that the future of digital lies in focusing on regional languages, catering to unique demands of consumers, discovering new talent, keeping a track of changing socio dynamics, creating great content, engaging in compelling interactions and adopting new technologies for serving the audience better.

UCWeb India MD Kenny Ye said that the Indian government’s ‘Digital India’ campaign would enable the digital platform to reach wider audiences. Through mobile technology, the internet would connect people and the relationship between service providers and consumers is the central to this economics. He also said that in India users welcome ads to watch content for free.