iSing – Online & Mobile Social network for Indian Music

Our latest work that has been keeping me busy for some time now, www.iSing.in, a music based social networking platform for Indian audience available both online & mobile. Request a help from readers, please go through the site and help me improve it.  It is in early stage alpha , so expect many kinks but do send in your candid feedback/sugestions to me. ( rajan_AT_motvik _DOT_com)

Best time in Mobile Industry

2008 has been the year of open source causing serious impact in the mobile industry but I could not imagine Symbian getting open sourced and that is exactly what Nokia has announced to do after acquiring Symbian. This has very long term implications for the mobile industry.  One can expect to see business model innovation happening in this industry that has been bereft of innovation for more than a decade. Now this is is why I think now is the best time to be in this Industry. (Business model innovations are the most scarce form of innovation and is one of the toughest to make happen).

As always the best commentary about this development in the mobile industry is available at VisionMobile.

We are not a VAS company

This was one of the most resonating message delivered by Viren Popli,(head of Star TV, mobile entertainment) as a representative voice of content & media companies in the Mobile VAS 2008 event put together by IAMAI. Now this might sound like a bold, foolish or even cocky message depending on which stable you belong to but it speaks volumes about the tremendous pressure that the current mobile value chain structures are in right now. I think the usage of term VAS itself is more than a matter of nomenclature, it reaffirms the telco as the centre of network view of the world which is not how inter-networks function. As rightly pointed out by Viren we should stop using that term. If you are a company in the mobile space I think you should also seriously think about usage of that term. From what I know I am sure IAMAI is thinking about it hard too.

More about the whole Mobile VAS 2008 event held two days ago.

What went right

  • A packed house with a very diverse crowd consisting of 10-20 % technology companies, 10% operators and the rest as content and media companies.
  • The first , third and the last panel discussion were great discussions with extremely interesting insights.
  • For a change this was not an event for me where the same faces were seen again.
  • Most of the speakers were very eminent and knew what they were talking about. So it was a great download of substance for me.

Things that could have been improved

  • 5 panel discussion back to back with very tightly packed seating arrangements with delegates literally elbowing each other made the whole day mentally as well as physically exhousting.
  • 2 ( 2nd and the 4th) of the panel could have been done away with to provide more interacting/networking time. (Especially the one on Enterprise Mobility discussion as it was a barrage of marketing pitches from most of the panelists)

My key takeaways from the event.

  • The low hanging fruit in the so called VAS market has been taken away.
  • There is a large amount of uncertainty in the future of this market(next version), the industry players are divided and are debating amongst themselves whether the market is supply constrained or demand constrained.
  • There is a tipping point in the making and some relatively unknown player will shake up the market and wake rest from their slumbers. (I subscribe to the belief that it is supply constrained 🙂 )
  • Contrary to what many would have you believe 99% of what is posited in the next generation market of mobile VAS is hype and that includes solutions from old players, telcos and heavily funded startups.
  • Newer value chains will be much much different from the old ones (trumpets are being sounded already, see the title of the post)
  • Clearly older players in the market will definitely have an edge even in this times of turbulence and they will exert their influence based on their past learnings.
  • Mobile Advertising is one of the most hyped up topic and half the people in the room are already doing mobile advertisement or planning to do it in the near future but very few realize of what it is.
  • Technology companies are not putting as much as effort understanding the media business as media companies are putting to understand the technology business. I was aghast at how much media companies knew about mobile and how much less of the reverse was true.

To sum up the question is the following

Next generation of the value creation ( & subsequent establishment of value chains) are non initiated because of a coordination failure, who should be a catalyst for it. VC & private equity capital through investment in game changing startups, fat media companies or Telco who have traditionally played that role.

    Ashish Gupta Kamla Bhatt Podcast

    Though I am regular listener of Kamla’s podcast show and I have been interviewed by her a few times, it was Rajiv who hat tiped me this podcast interview of Kamla with Ashish Gupta of Helion Ventures and it was an absolute delight to listen to it.

       I strongly recommend this to any entreprenuer, please take your time to listen to this three part podcast. Kamla raises some pertinent question to Ashish about entreprenuers, ecosytem and investment thesis and he answers them in his regular candid and graceful style.  Kamla has done a great job as an interviewer and I think is one of the finest podcast I ever heard.

    Attended Proto 08

    I could finally make it proto. Despite my general disappointment about the innovation scene in the technology space I think that events such as Proto and Headstart are great platforms to help startups irrespective of whethere they are innovative or not (of course one could endlessly argue on what is the definition of innovation).

    I could not make it to both the events blame it on the date clash of these events. On the positive side of the event what I liked was the way it was put together, all well coordinated and extremely professional. There were few good talks both in the business and the technology section, among the ones that I attended talks by Mohanjit, Roopa, Alok  and Rajesh jain were good. Few of the other talks were boring and some more were plain company pitches. What I missed in proto was the exceedingly high energy level that exuberates in any event at chennai (especially in comparsion with the past ones such as blogcamp, wikicamp and others ). Also there is more talk about Innovation than actually there is (I think it is a generic economic problem ), this is a sentiment that was shared by Aashish as well while we hung out together at the event.

    Companies that I liked that  presented there are Mobisy/MobiTop (a platform making mobile development easy ) : They have an extremely good value proposition for making development on mobile easy. They are quite well known to the bangalore mobile community already.  Synovel (colloboration suite based on Mozilla/Thunderbird): They are some of the best programmers I have ever seen and I know them since college and they are also globally respected open source officianados. My favourite example among the the companies that presented is http://www.atOneplace.com,  a marketplace in which I think the value created is equal to the transaction costs eliminated by removing the friction in a real estate purchase.

    I expected many VC’s to turn up but it was mostly the crowd of freshly minted management grads who might have been newly inducted as trainees at these VC firms which I think is not a very good thing. (From what I heard from Keshav and others Headstart was able to get actually about 10-12 VC’s to the event and not just VC firm representation in the event. Hmm!! ). Many of the startups that presented seemed to have gained from attending proto as they could source new leads in different aspects which is a good thing.

    I think overall it was a  bag of mixed response for me personally at proto.