Interview with Mr. Naveen Bhandari, MD of Techzone, Leading VAS Company

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Naveen Bhandari, MD & CEO, TechzoneMobile value added services are booming and expanding in India at a great pace. M-VAS is now more user-friendly and operators are offering in exciting manners in affordable pricing model.

We at got a chance to spend some time with Mr. Naveen Bhandari, Managing Director of Techzone. Techzone is in the industry for more than a decade and currently its presence is not only available in India, but it also expanded services in international market.

1. Give us a brief about Techzone and its growth from 2011 to 2012?

Techzone started way back in 1999 with a team of four people and have come a long way to about 350 plus team members. In India we are working across operators across all possible platforms. The growth in the domestic market has been satisfactory and has been in the north of 250%, keeping up with the trend over the last 3 years. 2011-12 also marked our foray into the international market and we expanded across operators in more than 30 countries.

2. What are current happenings at Techzone and what are the future development plans?

We are focusing more on developing branded stores for content on mobile, which is the future of M commerce for contents. Also the focus is on further expansion in the international market and venture into the flourishing application and Mobile advertisement market. We have recently started our tech research and development centre in Bangalore which would focus on all future platforms.

3. How is the vas industry faring currently? What is the scope in future as per you?

The era of consumers is finally dawning over the vas industry. I think now is the perfect time for content to speak out. Earlier we used to just take content and span it across to the consumers without any research on the consumption. Now the industry is completely changing where the product team has changed it's perceive value from push based to pull based so all our products are keeping in mind with the strategy to allow consumers to come in and discover the content. It will take a little while till the penetration happens but then this is the way out completely.

4. You are the only player in India that has presence in the international music market with rights of over a million music and video titles. How do you aim to use this to your advantage?

About two years back, we wanted to consolidate international music which was very scattered in terms of the content rights and more. The VAS consuming TG in India is gradually migrating towards international music. Hence we decided to consolidated rights from Sony, Universal and more. We ensured that due focus is given to this genre in terms of research, packaging and placement. If you see any telco now, there will be atleast five options for the consumers to select international music from practically no options about a year back. As per our expectations and defying certain market prejudices we are experiencing good amount of download from various parts of India. Hence we launched a store named ‘Playground’ aimed at making international music consumption simpler and more interesting. Playground has more than 4 lakhs tracks, videos and wallpapers virtually covering the entire universe of international music. The store can be accessed by simply texting PG to 56060

5. Which are the services that are ruling the VAS market? Which are the services that are likely to generate more revenues and interest in the coming future?

CRBT still contributes the major chunk of revenue followed by IVR, WAP and SMS. Although the sequence of last three varies from operator to operator. Utility based services are witnessing a surge of revenue increase. This includes services like News, health tips, matrimony etc. News services across platforms are undergoing exponential growth. We have pioneered the packaging and distribution of News based services for various platforms along with one of India’s most renowned premier news channels. But the format is yet to undergo many critical changes.

6. Are there any trends that you may have witnessed in the consumption of VAS from various geographies in India? (Which parts of India uses what kind of VAS more?)

As far as platforms are concerned the percentage contributions are more or less uniform across regions. When it comes to contents Tamil Nadu, AP and Karnataka are hugely skewed towards regional contents. As far as the international music market is concerned, surprisingly Kerala, MP and UP are as strong a market as any of the metros

7. With WAP services depending on geographic segmentation and device capability, many online sites like Flyte have not gone down the route. Is this somewhere a hurdle in the growth of Techzone?

Although experience with content market is definitely a hurdle but the critical roadblock faced by many of the stores mentioned by you is unavailability of billing integration & short code with all operators. Since operator billing is still the conventional mode of payment for VAS in India, absence of the same paralyses any business plan. No it has not been a hurdle for Techzone as we had three things required expertise in content market, billing integration and shortcode. In fact it has come as a boon as many international players who are interested in opening mobile stores are approaching us for our billing platforms and shortcodes

8. What more do you aim to offer through the SMS services to suit the requirements of content partners or mobile operators?

We have tied up with Radio City, Times Music, NDTV, India TV etc. We package and offer contents like the biggest library of devotional content of Times Music. With India TV as technology partner providing SMS, WAP and IVR services for mobile users pan India. Through SMS service Techzone will keep you informed 24*7 with NDTV “Live News & Lifestyle Subscription Plan with NDTV Good Times as per the consumers need. We broke the Radio City deal into two parts. The first was to give the station a call to action medium on the mobile platform which is on SMS or IVR which they are using extensively across all their 20 stations to get consumer feedback. The second is that they have premium content on their popular RJs and aired programmes which we are going to make available on the mobile platform.

So similarly, through SMS services we aim to offer various contents as per the requirements of content partners or mobile operators and make it available for the consumers on the IVR platform. Generally packaging takes a lot of time. We failed many times where consumers were not accepting the content and then we understood what kind of content the consumers were actually looking out for. Content wise its pretty niche but its not so as per the consumption levels.

9. What is the percentage of revenue that the music industry gets from mobile downloads?

This depends on the genre of content (international, bollywood, regional etc). But on an average 65% to 70% of total music revenue comes from mobile downloads or streaming. We are working with all operators pan India. We also have presence in more than 30 countries. In India we are operating on WAP, SMS, CRBT and Voice platforms along with all other emerging platforms across operators. Almost 80% of the present revenue is from revenue shares for content downloads from operators, 20% is from various managed services and B2B streams. We also have ventured into Applications, Mobile advertisements and youtube channel.

10. Brief us about the recent tie-ups of Techzone with its various other partners.

Techzone has tie-ups with as many as 180 music labels and other companies where information needs to be distributed users. Along with being one of the market leaders for providing content on mobile for the music and cinema industry, Techzone also offers lifestyle and news related content which is consumed on a day-to-day basis. Some of their recent tie-ups include - NDTV, Sunburn, RadioCity, India TV, 9X media and more.

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