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APRIL 22, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Mobile Security
Today, it is all about information and how the right information is sent to the right people at the right time and right place. Uncertainty about how to secure mobile phones in the face of increasing threats is slowing individual adoption of mobile applications. There are many facets of mobile security, including network intrusion, mobile viruses, spam and mobile phishing. Analysts expect big telecom companies to develop security solutions on various security platforms.

Rough Ride
These are competitive times for the Indian aviation industry. As salaries zoom, players are scrambling to find profits. Even the state-owned Indian is now seeking young airhostesses to take on the competition. It is planning to introduce a voluntary retirement scheme for airhostesses above 40 years. On an average, they draw a salary of Rs 5 lakh a year. The salaries of pilots, too, are soaring. According to industry estimates, the country needs over 3,000 pilots over the next five years.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  April 8, 2007

Net Gains
Several companies are using the internet to build communities and generate both interest and sales.

WebChutney's Rao (left) and Prabhat Bhatnagar: Some 300,000 people have already visited their Daddu ki Amanat campaign


The viral is all the rage, and we are not talking about the nasty bug that infiltrates North India at the end of every season. We are talking about the viral advert-a short animated clip, or sometimes simple image, which is spread by regular people, you and me, for example, who see it on the internet and find it funny. It is, in essence, the latest iteration of that age-old trusted marketing medium: word-of-mouth.

As Indian companies are realising the full potential of the internet, a slew of agencies is springing up, creating virals and communities for them, building customer loyalty and brand equity, all for a fraction of the cost of regular ads, and heck, they don't even need to use cricketers.

One of India's leading agency for online creative work is the Delhi-based WebChutney, which recently won an award at AdFest Asia in Singapore for its work on Perfetti's Protex brand. The work, Daddu ki Amanat, is not just a viral. WebChutney's CEO Sidharth Rao describes it as an "integrated campaign" that features not just a funny animated sequence but also a game. Since the time the campaign started, some 300,000 people have visited the site. "This has definitely been one of our most successful campaigns ever," he says.

What sort of company uses a viral campaign? Says Deep Kalra, CEO, MakeMyTrip, one of the first companies to discover the power of a viral campaign in India: "The strange thing is that people today tend to trust an anonymous stranger online rather than a person in their family or someone they work with. The power of a viral campaign spreads when people start forwarding it or make a blog post linked to that."

The other major online marketing campaign strategy is to build an online community. No community has been more successful than Hindustan Unilever's Gang of Girls (GOG) developed around the Sunsilk brand. Chaya Carvalho, CEO, bcWebwise, the company that created GOG, is the first to admit that GOG was backed up by a tremendous over-the-line campaign that was bound to attract eyeballs. "But we have constantly refreshed the site and added new features. For example, we have just started GOG TV, which allows our members to share videos with each other. Getting someone for a short one-time visit isn't magic; the magic is in making a community good enough for people to come back again and again and spend time on the site." Carvalho, a BT alum, admits that GOG has achieved that kind of stickiness. With an estimated half-a-million girls on its rolls as registered members, GOG is one of the most popular community sites with the Indian internet population.

Hungama's Roy: Huge potential, big money

That Indian companies are becoming more aware of the power of the internet is evident from the fact that many of them-and even government agencies-have moved from static text pages with poor and clunky graphics and bad colour combinations, to slick, state-of-the-art websites with embedded Java functionality. They are now also realising the power of the internet as a marketing medium; and with few traditional agencies serving the market, small start-ups like WebChutney and BCWebwise have stolen a march.

"It isn't as if large agencies don't have web divisions. Almost every large agency worth its salt has an 'interactive' division, but perhaps because of the limited billings, they haven't been as aggressive as one might have thought," Carvalho says. Rao estimates that the typical viral campaign costs in the range of Rs 5-15 lakh, depending on the length, quality and type of animation. "And you do get the cream of the audience online-people who are decision-makers and trend-setters. It is a hugely effective medium," Carvalho adds. So effective, that Neeraj Roy's Hungama (another pioneer in web virals in India) is betting big on virals moving on to the mobile platform. At 3gsm in Barcelona, he said that he plans to distribute short movie clips over mobile phones.

But things can also go wrong, "No branding should be too blatant. It's known that Sunsilk promotes GOG, but the brand is not overpowering," Carvalho points out. Worse still, as Rao says: "We just do the creative and other online work; we don't make the company's end-product. If that sucks, I don't think a viral can help you."

The entire web-business, which includes search-optmisation, banner advertising, virals and community site building-is currently valued at Rs 250-275 crore; the viral and community market form the smallest slice of this pie. Even though neither Rao nor Carvalho would give definite numbers, estimates put the market at Rs 10 crore; that is expected to double every year for the next few years as India plugs into broadband. "A year ago, we would be lucky to get one company to talk to us every month. Now, I have to fend off potential customers. We get 8-10 queries a month, and it is difficult to keep up," Rao says.

It's obviously a win-win situation for everyone.