Entertainment: the missing M4D value-added service

Tuesday 18 Feb 2014 |

Is a greater focus on entertainment the key to still-elusive scale in M4D? I’ve been asking myself that question ever since a recent trip to visit with our Innovation Grant partners in India. During our time there we were able to speak with numerous end users, top-up vendors, mobile shop owners, and others in theM4D ecosystem about their wants, needs, and norms around mobile. In both casual conversations and structured focus groups, a clear message came through: entertainment is intuitive and incredibly valuable to end users. The anecdotes below are just some of conversations I had wherein entertainment became a clear focus:

  • In discussions with owners of small mobile kiosks and top up shops in a rural village in Uttar Pradesh, they self-reported that almost half of their business is selling and loading music, videos and other entertainment content onto memory cards for use in people’s feature phones.
  • In a group discussion with our grantee SEWA’s rural female salesforce, ‘Rudibens’, we learned that a majority of these newly mobile-literate women used their phone to listen to local radio and music and take pictures with the phone’s camera; these are women who often don’t know how to send an SMS, but have figured out the arguably more complex skills to make use the radio and camera functions of the phone.
  • In a conversation with one of India’ largest mobile money providers, there was a discussion around the dominant sentiment that TV utility payment could be thekiller use of mobile money for bottom of the pyramid customers.

M4D is still very much in the “spinach without sugar” phase – health, agricultural and economic development services provide vital information to end users, but struggle to find the viral scale of SMS joke subscriptions, which are accessed by 52% of mobile users in India[1]. e.   Learning from sectors who have strategically integrated entertainment into their mobile campaigns with enormous success is crucial to make the impact we all seek to have with M4D services.

Hindustan Unilever (HUL), India’s largest consumer goods maker, runs the Indian state of Bihar’s most popular radio on mobile phones via a free call-back service that plays entertainment mixes with ads for fifteen minutes, specifically targeting villagers in remote areas – a key M4D target market. The service has already acquired 5 million subscribers with about 25,000 hours of engagement daily with consumers in Bihar, and Hindustan Unilever has stopped ads on radio in preference of mobile-only advertising channels. In a recent interview with the Economic Times of India, Hermat Bakshi, Executive Director for home and personal care at HUL, stated that “there’s a lot of demand for content or entertainment in media-dark villages and mobiles become their only route into that world. So, we thought, we can institutionalize missed calls into an entertainment channel.”

Five million subscribers is a dream number for most M4D services – perhaps entertainment is a way to get us there.

View: Entertainment: the missing M4D value-added service

[1] Mobithinking: The insider’s guide to mobile Web marketing in India