Identifying your mobile messaging partner

Choosing a mobile messaging partner can make or break your business pipeline as mobile interactions are inextricably linked to lead generation, demand activation and customer service. As a business owner or manager, you should always seek out partnerships that both meet and exceed your business goals. Failure to do due diligence could easily result in irreparable brand damage, loss of revenue and in some cases legal battles. Continue reading Identifying your mobile messaging partner

Understanding the nuances of mobile value added services

Mobile technology has come a long way since the wide-eyed days when access to it was a preserve of the wealthy. In the present day with official stats putting the Kenyan market at 33.3 million mobile subscribers, every single business entity has a large percentage of its consumers active daily on mobile making the channel most attractive for marketing, demand generation and general communication. Continue reading Understanding the nuances of mobile value added services

Mahindra Comviva partners with Bharti Airtel to deploy enterprise communications (SMS, USSD, MMS) platform across Africa

  • Platform to enable Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPs) to deliver messaging services and bulk messages to Airtel subscribers in the continent
  • Services to be rolled out in phases throughout Africa within the next six months

Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobility solutions, announced that it has partnered with Bharti Airtel, a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, to deploy its enterprise communications platform in 16 countries across Africa.

The enterprise communications platform will enable Airtel to provide a single platform that will empower ‘Wireless Application Service Providers’ (WASPs) in the region to address the messaging requirements of enterprise customers related to promotions, campaigns, contests or other similar services to mobile subscribers. Banks can send transaction information to their customers; similarly retailers can send promotional information to their customers. The platform, once deployed in the proposed countries, will enable the delivery of messages to the target segment over popular channels like SMS and USSD. This service will be rolled out in phases throughout Africa within the next six months.   Continue reading Mahindra Comviva partners with Bharti Airtel to deploy enterprise communications (SMS, USSD, MMS) platform across Africa

Taking your brand mobile

The sooner brands start to strategize and implement mobile solutions, the sooner they can engage their consumers on a truely personal level. Isn’t that the ultimate goal for any brand?

Each year, some marketing expert proclaims that “it’s the year of mobile”, yet every year passes with no noticeable shift in how the majority of brands strategize their mobile presence. Companies are worried about the ROI and marketers are still hesitant to take the risk. With marketing budgets tightening, everyone wants to know that their money is being spent wisely and their risk is minimal.

With brands big and small hesitant to develop a mobile strategy, now is the time to act. Capitalize on the fact that not many brands have ventured into the exciting new mobile medium. Early adopters have a better chance of receiving attention from mobile consumers all while not being lost in the mix. Brands have an opportunity to build a great base. By the time the competition is up and running, you will have already established your mobile brand.

Bringing a brand into the mobile world offers far more possibilities than any other medium right now. The biggest advantage that mobile offers is the personal interactions consumers have with the device. People don’t leave their house without their phone, keeping them connected with friends and family 24/7. While around the house their mobile device serves several different purposes from an alarm clock to an entertainment device. Brands have a chance to capitalize on the time invested between consumers and their handset.

Here are a few examples of ways to leverage the power of mobile devices and starting points to strategizing your mobile campaign:

  • SMS campaigns – messaging campaigns involve everything from coupons to exclusive offers on discounts at stores located nearest to them. This provides a great way to keep consumers engaged with your brand and connects with a consumer on a personal level. It gives the consumer a sense of being in an exclusive club.
  • The mobile Web – With the mobile Web still in its infant stages, brands have a chance to leverage all the new real estate. With many brands hesitant to create a mobile Web presence it is still relatively uncluttered, giving you the chance to stand out and take charge of their space.
  • Mobile apps – Apps have proven to be a great way for a brand to interact with their consumers. Apps are installed on the user’s phone and take advantage of the built-in features of the consumer’s phone. The app can be a way for the customer to interact with your whether it be through the GPS card and location-based services or their camera.

These are just three of many possibilities that a brand has to interact with consumers on mobile handsets. What about video or email campaigns? All of these options are viable with today’s mobile devices. And costs to deploy and test are lower than you might suspect.

It doesn’t matter if 2009 is “the year for mobile,” or not. The sooner brands start to strategize and implement mobile solutions, the sooner they can engage their consumers on a personal level never seen before. Isn’t that the ultimate goal for any brand?

Sophisticated Mobile Solutions for African Telecoms

18 September 2008
Posted to the web 18 September 2008

Katy Gabel

Timothy Mbugua is the CEO of Symbiotic Media Consortium. He started the company to provide a “one-stop shop” for promotions and campaigns, using a full suite of media products to engage clients. This includes print campaigns, web presence and mobile applications.

In addition to corporations, we’re also making products for the local mwananchi [citizen]. If there are five corporations we’re working for, we will have to wait three months down the line to get payment. But for mwananchi solutions, they pay before consuming the service, hence cash flow is improved for us and we have more to work with.

One of the products is Zunguka, which is pretty much a tool for collaborating. We’ve plugged in a viral aspect to it – if you refer friends you can earn redeemable points for the cinema and things like that.

Zunguka is a suite of six products: one is called TumaSMS, or “Send SMS” [short message service] in Kiswahili. There are two categories for that product: TumaSMS Mwananchi and TumaSMS Biashara. TumaSMS Mwananchi is a service to send short messages through the Internet using your own number. On TumaSMS Biashara we enable businesses to send SMSs to their client bases.

At the same time, on TumaSMS Mwananchi, you can opt to send free SMS messages by joining our advertising program. If I send you a message, for example, that says “how’s life,” Coca-Cola has bought 100,000 tags through us so that every time someone sends a message including the word “life” we attach an advertisement saying “Live on the Coke side of life.” So you can choose to send your messages either cheaply or for free through value-added text. It’s becoming pretty popular with corporations here.

A classic example of something we’ve done is a product called Esplanade for stock brokerage houses. As a client, you can access your stock portfolio account through the web, SMS and email. For example, I can send a quick message saying, “Sell my Safaricom shares at 50 bob [shillings].” But how do I know when to buy or sell? Well, I can set up my account to alert me anytime Safaricom, for example, gets to eight shillings. So I don’t have to keep track of it by constantly calling my broker.

It’s very exciting, because what’s on the market currently is access to share prices for the cost of a premium rate SMS. If you have a portfolio of 10 stocks, [it] would cost you 100 bob [about U.S. $1.60] to check them all. But if you use Zunguka, viewing those 10 stocks would cost you about 12 shillings instead.

Esplanade is pushed from the broker end. So brokers end up doing a lot of the customer education. If there’s any activity on your account, you will be alerted. This helps combat fraud on the brokerage end and increases investor confidence.

There’s another product called SMSoko where we’re simply connecting buyers and sellers via SMS and web. Not all SMEs [small and medium enterprises] can afford advertising in the newspapers. So they can join Zunguka and create their SMSoko, meaning SMS Market. It can be updated via web or SMS. You list your product, a description and a price.

If I [as a consumer] am looking for, say, black Timberland boots, I simply send an SMS and I get an SMS in return saying, for example, “We’ve found 100 traders, but because you entered via SMS we will send you the first two.” Some people have asked us, well, for those 100 traders, how do you make sure everyone gets noticed? Well, those two sellers are a random pick from the group, and all 100 traders will get a message that you are looking for black Timberland boots.

We also have a product called Kelele Mobile, which provides mobile entertainment: ringtones, wallpapers, MP3s videos – all that. It’s already a market that’s really growing, but we’re targeting East Africa by providing local content, which is very popular. Once you join Zunguka, you can share your Kelele content with friends on the network, building a full-on community.

We’re working hard at taking Zunguka international and throughout Africa. A lot of people in the Diaspora want to use our low-rate text service to contact friends and family.

We’ve designed a few other mobile services outside of Zunguka. We designed an SMS service for retrieving national examination results for secondary students. We also designed a program which sends alerts to HIV patients in western Kenya reminding them to take their antiretroviral medications. The doctor just needs to enter the patient information in a computer, and the system sends automated reminders to that patient. The patients know where that information is coming from, and they appreciate the privacy that comes with it. Another project we’re looking to do in September is creating an electronic register for political parties to prevent… electoral fraud.

Beyond that, we’re trying to work with the networks to improve what we can offer to clients. We’re really excited about location-based services. Imagine you’re walking on the street in town and you pass one of your favorite coffee joints. You then get a text on your phone telling you that you can bring in the electronic coupon for 30 percent off your cup of coffee. The possibilities are great.

Another service is called Saa Zingine, or Sometimes. It’s a dating service. We’re looking at using Zain’s One Network to do location-based services based on text. So I can just ask where the person I want to date is, and if they reveal their location to me we can meet up or chat on SMS or whatever we choose. It’s a very playful part of the portal. You can put up a profile and search others. Once you add location-based services, it takes it a notch higher. So we’ll do the Kenya launch, then the Tanzania and Uganda launches. We’ve been advised that Nigeria might be an interesting market to grow in just because of sheer numbers.

In Africa, there’s still a whole market to cover in terms of voice and SMS. But for me, 150,000 people with high-end phones provide sufficient reason to develop sophisticated applications. But I need to know that the network will allow me to take some of the 50 shillings that [a user] has made for the network by using my services. So more agreements need to come in, or we’ll be forced to continue basing everything on text, where the networks [take] more than 50 percent. The marketing is yours, the application development is yours, but the networks profit.

What’s happening at your company?

TechCrunch50 is always interesting to follow. This years winner Yammer ( have solidified what we at Symbiotic have been thinking and implementing as a business model.
Yammer Launches at TC50: Twitter For Companies
by Erick Schonfeld on September 8, 2008

David Sacks, the founder of genealogy site Geni, just launched a new company called Yammer on stage at TechCrunch50. Yammer is an enterprise version of Twitter. If Twitter asks: “What Are You Doing?”, Yammer asks: “What Are You Working On?” Engineers at Geni created Yammer internally for the company’s own purposes, but Sacks liked it so much he decided to spin it off as its own company. He explains:

The purpose is to allow co-workers to share status updates. You post updates on what you are working on. You can post news, links, ask questions, and get answers for people in your company.

You can see most the most prolific people and the most followed people. It is a good way to discover who is the most influential in your company.

It is also possible to follow specific people or topics (as defined by tags). Conversations can be viewed in threaded mode, like FriendFeed. By keeping up with Yammer, employees can see what everyone else in the company is talking about over the past 24 hours, week, or month.

This is a private Twitter only for employees of a specific company. Just like Facebook in the early days, which required a university e-mail address to join, Yammer requires a corporate email address to join.

Unlike Twitter, Yammer actually has a business model. It is free to use for employees, but if a company wants to claim their network and get administrative tools to remove messages and users, set password policies, or set IP ranges for who can use it.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, one of the judges of the panel on which Yammer launched, commented:

I really like this company the best.

The name is not very corporate. It reminded me of what I’m having for Thanksgiving. Maybe you could use a Yam for a logo.

The service is now live. And the company is also has a desktop AIR app, an iPhone app, and a Blackberry app.