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Blyk India: Engaging over a million users in year one.

Following on from the Blykwatch section that used to be in Mobile Industry Review back in the day. I knew that they had started a new venture in the Indian market and thought I should find out how it’s going. Blyk India head honcho Shubhodip Pal kindly agreed to meet me at their office in Delhi and give me the low down.

A little over a year ago Blyk launched their Indian operation with Aircel as the network partner. The format they have taken here is a magazine style presentation of content delivered by MMS. Thankfully Aircel are one of the few networks who know how to send a binary access point provision to the mobile phone so users can receive the settings they need for their device and join up. India has a huge volume of marketing spam delivered by SMS, phone users here get 20-30 unsolicited text messages on a bad day. When users join Blyk and decide to unsubscribe from a particular type of content on the service, it does actually stop immediately, which for Indian mobile is revolutionary.

When Blyk launched they were helped by the Aircel Student Ambassadors to promote the service in many of the universities. The rewards model it that users earn rewards of call minutes and free SMS depending on how they are engaging with the content. Participating in the member get member programme offers some good reward packages too. Along side this Aircel have been encouraging customers who are active on some of their other GPRS services to give Blyk a try.

For mobile marketing to be successful, the big brands have to be ready to understand the nature of mobile media and create engaging content. Blyk India have run some very successful campaigns for Levi’s apple, Bacardi, and Coca Cola with consistent results in getting response rates above 25%. The Indian marketing teams of major brands are beginning to ask their agencies for social media and Blyk is the best channel to guide the fans to a brand presence. Fixed broadband penetration in India is at less than 6% of the population, so why would you spend on online. Celebrity product endorsement in India is everywhere, Blyk users have been responding very well to receiving previews of the next campaign ahead of TV and the rest of the media mix. The more exclusive they can make their users feel, the more viral success they can count on.

The team in India are determined to add some real value to their users away from the global names advertising through the service. 20% of the content is real time and localised for their users. They provide what’s on information for the week in most large cities featuring new movies, music concerts, special parties sponsored by booze companies and more. Ahead of the national holiday weekends they source offers of weekends at affordable local spa resorts etc. They are careful to make sure the offers are realistically affordable by their users. This really enhances the feeling of trust and understanding in the service. Shubhodip admits that a great deal of resource and effort goes in to this and it can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. This is the really valuable bit for their community, all the feedback they’re getting around this shows they love it.

This kind of advertising spend always needs the numbers to back it up at the end of the day. The Blyk India service has gained over a million active and enthusiastic users in it’s first year. Right now each month is adding around another 120,000 fully opted in users ready to pay attention. The power that popular brands here could leverage in getting people engaged could really help to change the shape of the industry here. From our cloistered view point in the west many of us have had a chuckle about people such as Tomi Ahonen constantly talking about SMS and MMS, when you examine a market like India, you realise just how right this is.

Like the Zephyr music service, the brands in India would do well to start looking at what they can do with localised smartphone apps to follow up on the quality engagement they’re getting on mobile from working with Blyk. The Blyk user base is the up and coming youth who are learning fast and all aspire to buy a smartphone just as soon as they can. Aircel are now offering some good deals on iPhone et al, and will likely hoover up these customer upgrades at every opportunity.

 

Why would you spend money on traditional online indeed!

By Dominic

Dominic Travers is the founder of the mobstrategy consultancy in New Delhi. He has been working in the mobile communications industry for over 8 years and in the digital media space for longer than he cares to admit. Recently he was project lead for Future Platform's award winning app for the 2011 Glastonbury Festival. His interests include all things web, mobile, network performance, curating events, information and communication. He curated and produced the Future of Mobile conference in 2008 and curated and delivered the Droidcon UK conference in 2010.

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