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Source: Business Times | View Print Article

An ‘MNC’ start-up cooks up a mobile app to put ads on SMS.

Mobile Users are probably going to hate it, but operators will surely want to introduce the service: content and ads on the user’s SMS start-up screen and the message sending screen. Whose brainchild is this pesky but potentially profitable mobile application? A little-known company called Affle. launched simultaneously out of India, Singapore and the UK (that probably makes it an MNC start-up!). Affle has spent over 50,000 man hours on developing the application. “The SMS is the single most valuable real estate on the phone when it comes to the amount people look at the screen,” reasons Anuj Kumar, Executive Director (South Asia), Affle. The start-up successfully piloted a trial with Airtel in Delhi earlier this year, involving 15,000 mobile subscribers, and is looking forward to a nationwide roll-out in a couple of months.

The application, which works on around 50 hand-sets at present (and Khanna says another 50 are in the pipeline), is required to be installed on your phone. “Strange as it might seem, developing an SMS application is quite a challenge,” Khanna laughs. It is a user-oriented service, where the user chooses what sort of news feeds he wants, and the entire thing, and this is the good part, is free. Even better, SMS 2.0 keeps the standard 160-character limit on your device, but if you send text messages from one user to another, you get access to colours and swanker emoticons.

But what is the revenue model then? “Well, while 80-90 per cent of the time users will see content according to what they selected when they installed the service, we will sometimes send advertising, or rather sponsors for the free content. Plus we also sometimes send contextual stuff around the content we serve that users can download, like ringtones and wallpapers,” Kumar explains. “While the user needs to have a GPRS/EDGE capable device for this, they will not pay for data charges, and we share the revenue with the operator.”

Besides India, Khanna says talks are on to start services in Thailand and the Philippines shortly.