The M-Force

DQI Bureau
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The dealer in Chennai's T-Nagar has an urgent call: someone wants office

furniture units today. He sends out an SMS, with the product code, to the

distributor. In ten seconds, he's got back the pricing, availability, and

color options. He closes a Rs 1.1 lakh order on the phone.

  • It's urgent, says the caller from Proctor Road. He's got a customer

    for nine LCD monitors, and no stock. The distributor's territory manager

    in Andheri glances at the screen: there's a delivery van with stock, just

    past Peddar Road, heading to Nariman Point. An SMS goes out with the dealer

    address and 'ASAP'. On the other side of town, the van takes a U-turn.

    The manager watches the dot on the screen head to Proctor Road. "Ten

    minutes", he tells his caller.
  • It's well past 24 hours, and we're pacing up and down: the package

    hasn't reached. We need the ad material like yesterday. Were they fibbing

    about having sent it? Call, ask for the consignment number. Enter it on the

    courier company site. And we get the answer: the package was delivered 3

    hours ago, down at our reception, signed for by Rajesh, the guard. Now we

    know where to look. We find it in minutes.
  • It's late, and the five women have been waiting for an auto-rickshaw on

    Cunningham Road. Ten minutes down, there's a lone auto. That would still

    leave two of them stranded. But the auto driver's taken out his mobile. An

    SMS goes out to two others. Within five minutes,

    another auto joins in, and they all set out.

It's a mobile world. To keep up with it, businesses,

enterprises, and individuals have necessarily adopted a plethora of mobile

technologies across the planet-to different degrees. We don't yet see the

sophisticated location-based services from the last example in Singapore.


Based ServiceS: Haven't picked up in India due to lack of service

provider support and good quality mapping content

The mobile voice revolution has happened in India. The next

wave is data. Well established across much of the world, it's early days yet

in India. But it's happening. And it's led by two killer mobile apps: SMS

and email.

For the numerous enterprises eyeing the adoption of mobile

applications, the leading driver is deriving competitive edge through improved

efficiencies and employee productivity. This is taking enterprise mobility to a

new level of 'anytime, anywhere' access to information. While voice remains.

and will continue to remain the most used application, enterprises are expanding

their horizons and beginning to look at the data part in a big way. Though a

little late in arriving, the data wave is all set to take off among the

enterprises in India. Triggering off in its wake the emergence of a whole new

generation of mobile applications that are taking enterprise applications like

ERP, CRM, SCM, etc right up to the domains of laptops, PDAs and mobile phones.

While some applications, like providing an SMS interface to

ERP and CRM, are a reality today in the Indian market, others like LBS (Location

Based Services) are yet to take off. Nevertheless, while some of the

applications seem a little far-fetched for the present times, they have the

potential to have a big impact on productivity and efficiency within the



The Catalysts: SMS & Email

Interestingly, even as the developer community is going on overdrive,

dishing out some of the most interesting and sophisticated applications, SMS and

e-mail over hand held continue to rule the domain, gaining maximum traction

among enterprises in India.

The two can be classified as horizontal applications cutting

across enterprises, functionalities, operations, and processes. Even though mass

adoption of these two applications may still be a distant reality in the Indian

market, the two can potentially revolutionize the enterprise space.


of the missing elements for mobility applications in India: High

resolution mapping of the country. For instance, this application (

lets you locate any place by address in the USA, and get driving

directions from one place to another.

SMS clearly leads the charge on popularity. The ubiquity of

mobile phones in the country today makes SMS a pervasive application. Presently,

India's mobile phone penetration is much higher than the Internets and, hence,

SMS promises enterprises a wider footprint and higher levels of penetration even

to the remote areas where Internet connectivity is an issue. Another factor

clearly working in favor of SMS is its availability, which is not restricted to

high-end and expensive handsets, unlike mobile email. Thus making it ideal for

automating the sales force and field staff in an enterprise. Cost efficiency and

flexibility are some of the other factors.

E-mail over mobile phones and PDAs is a phenomenon that is

beginning to catch up among enterprises in India, particularly with two telecom

biggies-Airtel and Hutch-hawking their solutions actively. While Airtel has

been pushing its Blackberry aggressively in the enterprise space, Hutch has been

promoting its push email.

Email is a key enterprise communication medium and has a high

impact on productivity, even while on the move. Access during emergencies that

require immediate attention and action need not necessarily be restricted to

voice, considering there are documents and data to be exchanged, which can be

done on email.


According to Jay Vikram Bakshi, head of Marketing, Enterprise

Solutions, Nokia India, various researches indicate that the first application

most mobile users like to see integrated into their mobile phones is their



of the missing elements for mobility applications in India: High

resolution mapping of the country. For instance, this application (

lets you locate any place by address in the USA, and get driving

directions from one place to another.

While laptop is another alternative to accessing email while

on the move, a factor that will drive adoption of push email over phones and

PDAs will be the incentive to carry lesser number of devices. Though this might

not hold ground in some cases, like where the enterprise user is carrying his

laptop for applications other than just accessing email.


On the flip side, cost is likely to be a prohibitive factor,

thereby restricting its uptake largely to upper and middle management. So, as

far as automation of the sales force on the field goes, SMS is going to be the

most likely bet.

Vertical Limit

At a very broad level, there are a host of micro mobility applications

specific to the various processes in the enterprise, or even to vertical

domains, which can be accessed via a macro application. SMS over mobile phones

or GPRS on mobile phones or PDAs, or even as web applications to be accessed

through Internet over laptops by logging into corporate VPNs. The basic paradigm

is mobilizing the existing applications within the enterprise-ERP, CRM, SCM-and

extending them for 'anytime, anywhere' access.

On why enterprises will need to mobile-enable their ERP and

CRM applications, Vijay Shukla, country head, ValueFirst points out that there

is significant need in case of ERPs as stakeholders are not always connected by

wires but need a constant flow of information all the time. In the case of CRM,

customers are almost always mobile and, therefore, using the mobile channel for

customer communication becomes extremely critical.


Some of the leading applications which have presented a

business case for mobility include Sales Force Automation (SFA), Field Service

Applications (FSA) and CRM. In SFA, the entire sales cycle-right from sales

communication, sales MIS to order booking-is done wirelessly. In FSA, complete

customer support is done from a remote location via wireless transactions.

Atanu Mandal, president, ACL Wireless, thinks CRM

applications are possibly the most common apart from marketing campaigns and

lead generation. Dealer management applications are also being deployed

selectively. He further points out that there will be a range of applications

including customer service and productivity improvement that enterprises would

like to mobile-enable. "Volume of transactions will always be much higher

in CRM applications (B2C space) while higher end applications will be in the

productivity improvement domain (B2B space)," he explains.

As per experts, SFA and FSA are the two applications that

will see a dramatic change in deployment base in the next couple of years. Some

of the other, hot, mobile applications to look out for include m-banking,

m-commerce, RFID-based track & trace applications, and retail applications.

The Big Opportunity: LBS

The enterprise segment is touted to be a big market for Location Based

Services (LBS) worldwide. Some of the existing, and potential, enterprise

applications on LBS include vehicle-tracking system; and promotional activities

based on locations, asset, fleet, and workforce management. Globally,

enterprises are all set to integrate location capabilities into their existing

mobility applications. Companies, typically with a large sales staff, field

force, on the move service engineers, are likely to find a potential business

case for LBS.

Way To Go

As per experts worldwide, enterprise uptake of mobile applications is set

for phenomenal growth. By 2005, Gartner anticipates 65% of enterprises to

harness the power of wireless applications to efficiently automate their

existing business processes, and use wireless connectivity for one or more user

groups. The growing mobile phone penetration coupled with its 'anytime,

anywhere' access capability, is making it essential for enterprises to exploit

this domain.

High Awareness:


adoption of mobility applications has just about started to take off among

enterprises in India

Though Indian enterprises have started opening up their

applications to the mobile world, and awareness is building up, enterprises in

India are only in the nascent stage of deployment. On a scale of 1 to 10 experts

rate awareness and adoption levels at around 7 and 4 points, respectively.

"Awareness is very high. All companies have heard about

mobile solutions and how beneficial they might be to their company. They are,

however, unsure of the roadmap ahead, and that has influenced adoption

levels," says Ravi Subramanyam, director, MobileOne Infocom.

Wireless deployment requires a change in the mindset of

enterprises and also a significant dependence on mobile operators, who,

themselves, are not fully ready for enterprise mobility.

Take, for instance, LBS. The non-availability of LBS from

service providers is a huge prohibitive factor to its uptake by the Indian

market. The situation is sure to change once operators begin to see its

potential. In fact, the first step towards this is likely to be initiated

sometime in the very near future, with BSNL expected to start around 14

location-based services in some of its circles.

According to Debarshi Roy, vice president-Operations, Ontrack

Systems, operators are, for the time being, following a wait and watch policy:

"they are waiting for the commercial viability of offering LBS before they

get into this space aggressively." Besides, there are also issues on

handshaking with other operators. According to Dilip Singh, president, Telenity,

some of the key challenges for an LBS provider will be the ability to tackle

issues relating to user privacy, good quality maps and cost of services.


While things may be at a nascent stage right now, at the ground level, there

is enough excitement building up in the air. The business case driving this

excitement is what is ultimately going to push mobility as an integral strategy

for these enterprises.

The reasons for adoption may vary from one enterprise to

another but the primary case is to extend information to where the business

people are. According to Arindam Bose, head-IT, LG Electronics India, "In

business, information is power. Mobile information helps in quick decisions

which, in turn, reduces time to market, creates ability for dynamic response to

market situations, and enables real time response to business issues."

Subramanyam says productivity, rather than cost, is a primary

driver: "Employee empowerment and increase in their productivity have been

key factors leading to the adoption of mobile and wireless applications


Overall, some of the key advantages that enterprises are

eyeing include quicker turn around time so that there is no need to wait to

access data till connected by wires; increased productivity by making the same

team do more work by giving them relevant information real-time; and faster

decision making by making critical information available real-time. Besides, a

mobile enterprise can benefit from drastic reduction in staff travel time and

cost, and drop in expense from long-distance calls. Not to forget improved

customer service, as information would be available to the salesmen on the fly.

Eternal Worries: RoI & Security

While there is no dearth of applications and the inherent need also makes a

strong business case for adoption, back-end infrastructure, security, cost and

lack of availability of services from operators continue to be issues with

enterprises in India.

SR Balasubramanian, VP, Information System, Hero Honda,

provides an insight into some of the specific challenges from a CIO's point of

view. He says that the main concern is with respect to security, as enterprises

fear loss of control and leak-out of sensitive corporate information to

competitors. The next challenge, according to him, is the back-end integration

with applications: "It should be seamlessly integrated and not limited to

data passing and extraction, and this requires suitable planning. Atanu Mandal

of ACL Wireless agrees that the most common challenges faced by enterprises are

issues like back-end integration and security, along with cost of devices, which

is a big issue for GPRS-based enterprise application deployment.

RoI is another crucial challenge that enterprises are faced

with, considering that the market is still too young for them to be able to

conduct a detailed RoI study and analysis.

Akhil Pandey, head of department-IT at NDPL, adds another

perspective to the mobility challenge in terms of disaster recovery for mobile

devices, as most people lose data every time the mobile device crashes. Also,

physical security of mobile devices is very difficult to ensure.

The challenges and limitations as expressed by many a CIO and

business leader can be summed as:

  • Reliability/Quality of service- Mobile operators do not

    offer stringent SLAs in India. The current focus of mobile operators is

    consumers and not enterprises.

  • Support- High quality support is essential for

    enterprises. Unfortunately, not many service providers in India offer that

  • Level of understanding of IT- backend with mobile


  • Mobile operator specific services- A few mobile operators

    offer good service but only limited to their network. Hence, lack of

    operator-neutral services is a big limitation.

  • Rapidly changing technologies

The Device Factor

While building mobile applications one cannot lose sight of the devices,

which form an integral part. According to Bakshi, the entire gamut of devices

ranging from laptops to PDAs, mobile phones, mobile phone cum PDAs, are going to

co-exist in the mobility ecosystem of an enterprise, and the extent of their

usage and popularity will be determined by the nature of the application. For

instance, laptop will be more suitable for applications like making

presentations and for working on very document-intensive applications. Whereas,

a mobile phone and PDA will be suitable where one just needs to keep in regular

touch with emails and basic information, as well as for SFA kind of applications

wherein it might be cumbersome for the sales staff to tag along the laptop.

Mobile phones do command an edge, in terms of popularity, owing

to the cost as well as the wider-reach factor. Overall, as Subramanyam points

out, a device which does not weigh much, is very portable and mobile, can fit

into the pocket of an individual, has a reasonably sized display and is

readable, is integrated with a phone and a keypad, and does not cost much, would

be the best form factor for powering mobile solutions.

But, it is the cost of devices along with the business case for

applications and RoI, that will ultimately determine the pace of adoption among

enterprises, not only in India but also in the world.

Shipra Arora

WalMart: Speeding up retail

RFID is being touted as the next generation in enterprise

mobility. One of its early adopters, WalMart, now has more than 500 RFID-enabled

stores and clubs, and 5 distribution centers. 200 suppliers will join the

existing 130, in January 2006, shipping EPC-tagged cases and pallets.

A study of the impact of RFID adoption at WalMart shows that

RFID-equipped stores were 63% more effective in replenishing out-of-stock

merchandise compared to non-RFID-equipped stores. It also found a 16% reduction

in out-of-stock merchandise, and, out-of-stock items with RFID were replenished

three times faster than items using standard bar-codes. There was also a

reduction in manual orders resulting in reduction of excess inventory, according

to the report. Also, RFID-enabled pilot stores outperformed non-RFID in

providing improved on-shelf availability of items for customers.

ING Vysya: ValueFirst banking

ING Vysya Bank uses the mobile data services of ValueFirst as an

alternate medium of interaction between the Bank and its customers and

employees. Services offered include Broadcast, which allows the bank to send

promotional messages to consumers; Schedule, through which the bank sends

messages to its customers on a predefined schedule basis; and Events, which

allows an SMS to be sent automatically to the customer when a certain event


Enquiry and m-commerce are services still at the pilot stage.

Enquiry provides interactivity to customers who can, through SMS, get answers in

real time and m-commerce service will allow various commercial transactions.

Allianz Bajaj: Two-way SMSing

Allianz Bajaj has tied up with ValueFirst to provide both push

and pull options to customers, wherein they are sent daily updates. Customers

have an option to pull and check their policy status or push to receive

information about services.

Insurance consultants get daily updates on the status of their

proposal and requirements for policy completion, also personal information on

clients, helping them provide better service. Daily business figures are sent to

top management, and sales teams can directly communicate with on-the-field staff

via SMSs; which is also used to alert on-the-field agents about appointments and

other details, and for internal communication.

Indian Airlines: Upgrading customers

Thanks to the SMS-based service, the Indian Airlines (IA)

passengers are now able to get details relating to arrival/departure by sending

keywords and parameters relating to flight number, origin, and destination,

using the IA short code-67671407.

IA can now also provide timely updates to customers via SMS. The

application reads the data from the IA mainframe server and processes it to

compose and push messages on the available mobile numbers for their respective

flights. SMS specific URLs were built to fetch data from the IA server and post

it to wMS AQR application as per the SMS request. To make the service more

user-friendly, the application was created to accept city names rather than

restricting to city codes. Scenario based error and help messages have also been

built to make the service more usable.

DSP Merrill Lynch: Investing made easy

DSP Merrill Lynch Mutual Fund India wanted to provide data on
various mutual funds schemes and indices on SMS. The requirement was to create

pull and push based mobile services to allow users to request and receive

instant data on their mobile handset.

ACL Wireless provided an SMS based query-response mechanic using

ACL's AQR setup. It provided unique short code 67672855 (6767BULL) for all

DSPML Mutual Fund information. Customers just have to send an SMS with a keyword

to get the current or historical NAV of the requested schemes. ACL also provided

the interface format to allow DSPML to post the push messages at ACL gateway. As

an integrated marketing approach, all the response messages are sent through

DSPML as alphanumeric masking of its short code, helping the organization brand

its services.