| 28 May 2024
Mauj Telecom CEO Manoj Dawane - Our plan is to get into the Middle East and Africa this year

Manoj Dawane, who's seen the business from the operators' side till last year, shifted from Bharti Airtel to become CEO of People Infocom (Mauj) in mid 2007.

One of India's leading mobile value added services company, Mauj has been jumping from strength to strength in the M Vas space, even as it experiments and innovates in a bid to keep pace with the burgeoning telecom and computing industries.

In a chat with's Aparna Joshi, Dawane shares his insights and vision for the company in the year ahead.


What is Mauj currently into?

We started off as an aggregator, even before we got into any other part of the Mobile VAS value chain. The aggregator's role is very important in this industry, because content is not made for mobile. The content is made for the large screen or the television screen. How to adapt that to the mobile screen is where the science of aggregation comes in. Aggregation and software development go hand in hand. 300 to 400 handset devices come into the market every month, each of which have different specifications and operating systems.Hence, the way content renders on it is also different. That's where a lot of software dependency comes in to play.

Similarly, applications that an operator runs, like CRBTs or missed call alerts, each has its own specifications. So, we are also in the software development space. The next stage is managing the entire platform for an operator once a stage of trust is reached - we run five to six platforms in the world, where we do everything - from content aggregation to repurposing to platofrm management to digital rights management.That's how we are a technology enabler. We also have our internet pipeline.

Out of the seven entities in the chain, we only don't play the telco and the devices game - as of now. Devices are our favourite ally because they take a lot of content from us for embedding.

We also play a part in content ownership, we have a part in Eros, in Echo Music, and Mauj Music - our venture with Shamir Tandon, so we are a strong player there.

Where do you see Mauj poised right now?

Mauj is right now sitting at the crux of three very large industries - computing (devices and software), telecom, and new media which represents the digital entertainment part of the world, which excites us the most.

All three industries are growing at an unimaginable pace currently. We are and continue to need to be at the crux of all three. In this day, you have to make sure that all your content is publicised or exhibited in multiple formats, else you are not doing full justice to your content. Multi modal exhibition of the same content by using computing is hence important. Finally, telecom has given new media a lot of interactivity. All film producers today know that they are shooting on digital cameras, but they perhaps don't know how to utilise the digital medium. But once the industry starts exploiting the various possibilities, we, being at the epicentre, would love to play the game!

But it also means that we are under pressure, working at the epicentre of three fast growing industries. And because of the information and broadcasting systems that are now prevalent, the whole operation is seamless. For which, we need to keep pace with all three industries.

Product management is also very important to us. We also do mobile marketing, campaign management, brand adaptations...We do a mix of both business models - the managed services model as well as just populating a platform for an operator with content.

As an example of self generated content that Mauj has developed, we took Bhagvad Gita shlokas, got them rendered in our studio and are offering them as CRBTs with translations. So, we took a property that has no IPR, converted it into a value proposition that the telco and operator would like, and turned it into a form that can be consumed. It has caught on so well that we have now started Gita shloka subscriptions. We have taken 108 shlokas to start off with, and we do them in three languages - English, Tamil and Hindi.

We also have an Arabic portal in Bahrain, completely run out of India. Apart from the work we do with a lot of brands - including Pirates of the Caribbean, Ford Ikon and ESPN Mobile...

We have repurposed two hundred thousand pieces of content till now. We have 580 partners across genres, including Bollywood, fashion, sports, tunes, games - every genre is covered.

What is Mauj's 2008 focus going to be?

Our particular plan is to get into Middle East and Africa, because we feel that these countries are still to be exploited, in terms of mobile. In my opinion, even the US is slightly behind us in terms of the way the mobile is being exploited. It is India which is one of the torch bearers of innovations in this industry, although our rates may be lesser. There is a lot that the world can learn from us.

There are 42 million people of Indian origin in the world, most of whose per capita income is 16 times higher than the average Indian. And, they are consuming the same Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone - so we have just got to reach our content to them in an elaborate manner. We will first launch with Indian content but nothing stops us from getting coloured in the hue of the local soil either. So, what we tried through our Arabic portal, could well be tried in Spanish or Afrikaans....

The other focus this year will be mobile marketing which is about to mature now.
It consists of two parts - advertising and campaign management. Any campaign or market oriented initiative has a message, that needs to be published multi modally.

What are your plans for Mauj Music?

In music, we only go after specialised content. We don't get into mainstream music videos and such, but our presence gives us a good insight into the music industry. With our entry into the film arena should give Mauj another impetus. We are not like just about any M Vas company that's trying to make ends meet. We will eventually get into the direct to consumer strategy, but we are giving ourselves time.

so, this year is going to be international expansion, mobile marketing and advertising will arrive on the scene and the launch of 3G.When 3G comes to India, we will be the first on the bandwagon!

Is Bollywood still the biggest draw when it comes to VAS?

Bollywood is still the biggest, cornering around 60 per cent of the market. Spiritual is catching up big time, so is regional. Among regional, it is the south Indian music that's a big draw - Ilayaraja's music, Tamil music, Telugu music which are also much in demand.

When it comes to VAS, there is a science in managing content. Typically, content means graphics and tones - which means music and non music content. There are numerous ways in which this content has to be modified and tagged so that it is rendered properly on any handset that needs to access it.

The key thing is to know your consumption pattern.

Are the urban areas still the target areas?

35 per cent of our games, the top end applications are downloaded in B and C class towns. For these people, where there's no FM, erratic electricity and no multiplexes, the mobile spells entertainment. From the easternmost part of the country to the southernmost tip, you still have your GPRS network.

Are the ringtones still the most in demand?

Yes, they are the killer app. In March '07, there were almost eight hundred thousand ringtones downloaded per day in India. But the industry's malaise is that four times that number is pirated downloads, since four times that number is pirated. File sharing, rogue websites - these are the culprits that will hurt the industry in the long term. In the short run, that consumption is not bothering us, because we are still getting the foundation built. But overall, we can expect a 60 per cent growth in the number of ringtone downloads by March 08, over last year.

The VAS market currently stands at Rs 4000 crore, growing at 60 per cent.

Currently, it's all entertainment driven, we don't have enterprise oriented applications, which constitutes around 10 to 15 per cent of the entire mobile applications market currently.

Shaadi, Fropper, Makaan and Astro will be the biggest strengths of Mauj in the coming days. Shaadi and Fropper are already iconic brands, worldwide. Almost 32 per cent of first time internet usage, or sampling, in India last year has come on the mobile.
The average price of a GPRS enabled phone in Uttar Pradesh for example is around 6000 rupees, and audio and visuals is what excites the users. Both Makaan and Shaadi have enabled publishing of the information that is of use to the users, but on a platform they are more comfortable with than the Internet.