A thin sheet of fog hangs over the bright winter morning in Dankaur, Uttar Pradesh, a town with a population of 15,000 people. In this small, agricultural town, two hours away from Delhi, the excitement that morning is centred on a van in one of its main streets. Men, mostly in their late teens and twenties, are crowded around a presenter who is explaining the features of various mobile phones displayed inside the van. The marketer is Nokia, which the previous day launched several more entry-level models as well as Life Tools, an SMS-based service (negating the need for GPRS coverage) for emerging markets, and specifically, the rural and semi-rural markets.
Life Tools, which will begin life as a pilot project in some districts in Maharashtra, aims to bridge the digital divide in the emerging markets. Nokia says experiencing the benefits of the Internet should not be so heavily dependent on a personal computer — and services such as this, which aim to bring the advantages of the Net to those who cannot afford PCs, will add value to people’s lives.
In Dankaur, the van, after moving from one area to another, will come back to the town centre in the evening to screen four clips that will tell viewers how owning a mobile phone has made a difference to their lives. A fisherman, a farmer, a woman entrepreneur who sells pickles and a carpenter talk of how owning a mobile phone saved them the drudgery of having to trudge great distances selling their wares and services, eliminated some middlemen and brought them enquiries and orders. The time and money they thus saved helped them augment their business. Outside the van is a photo prop — a cardboard cut-out of a doctor. Anyone who so wishes can pose — stand behind it, his or her face standing in for the doctor’s, and have an inkling of what it’s like to be one.
“Sapne dekhna mat chhodo,” say pamphlets that are being distributed, exhorting people not to stop dreaming, but realise their dreams by buying efficient Nokia phones.
“The potential for Life Tools is immense. Health and medical advice could be one of the applications later,” D. Shivakumar, Vice-President & Managing Director (Markets), Nokia India, tells BrandLine. To begin with, Nokia will provide e-mail on Ovi (a Nokia platform), services in agriculture and English language learning. “Agriculture employs more than 60 per cent of the Indian workforce and education and English are seen as springboards for small town and rural youth to move into the employment market. Our competitors are still focused on marketing devices and growing the market while we have moved beyond devices to services,” he adds.
Reuters Market Light (which has been running a similar subscription-based service for farmers in Maharashtra and Punjab) will supply the content to Nokia which will relay it to the farmers. It will include information on prices and availability of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and market prices of produce and weather conditions. The information is customised to the farmer’s location and selection of crops and will be delivered directly to the mobile phone. It will help farmers make informed decisions that will have a beneficial impact on their productivity and yield.
The English services will include a word-a-day service and quizzes on words and phrases. Going further, the education service will also come with information on higher education and career guidance and tips, exam preparation, quizzes and access to exam results. Both services will be available on payment of a monthly subscription.
Life Tools will use an icon-based, graphically-rich user interface that comes with tables and can even display information simultaneously in two languages. Idea Cellular is the first GSM operator in India to collaborate on Life Tools, which will be available in local languages for the target audience.
Says Robert Andersson, Executive Vice-President (Devices Finance, Strategy and Sourcing), addressing a press conference held to announce the launch of Life Tools and several models of phones priced between €25 and €90 for emerging markets: “The Internet is the opportunity but the barrier to Internet access remains high. Does it really require a PC? Mobility has the power to make it available and affordable and bridge the digital divide. The mobile phone is a durable that’s highly easy to use and is affordable though the screen size and memory may be disadvantages.”
Life Tools will be available on several entry-level models such as the Nokia 2323 Classic and Nokia 2330 Classic in the first half of 2009, but the pilot will run on the Nokia 2600 and Nokia 1680 models. The Life Tools service, which has ‘Inform, Involve and Empower’ as its promise, will also be offered in select countries in Asia and Africa later next year.
6 months ago