Companies need to keep consumers perception shifts in mind to succeed in a convergence environment

MUMBAI: The fifth International Conference on Communications Convergence kicked off today in Mumbai.

The event is being organised by the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC). One of the speakers at the inaugural session was Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) vice chairman and MD Anand Mahindra spoke about the need for companies to adjust to how consumers perceptions towards their products is changing in a convergent environment.


He notes that a new breed of people is shaping the world of the future, which is that of communications convergence. "This community works in a different manner from traditional communities. They are not constrained by geographical boundaries or culture. Access to technology and shared interests link them.However when companies think of convergence they should remember that it goes beyond just technology. It is what happens to the mindset when one uses devices in a certain way to seek connections. For example when music becomes a set of digital files it changes the manner in which the community looks at it.When you say goodbye to a loved one on Skype it alters one‘s perception of distance."

Companies he says must note that the convergent community has three characteristics. Firstly they are collaborative. To make a purchase decision they often depend on word of mouth like blogs. That is why Mahindra checks out blogs more than he looks for advice from his marketing manager. "Opinions, expertise is shared like on car sites. One can use this to one‘s advantage or get destroyed. An inspirational consumer online can become a spokesperson for your brand.


Secondly Mahindra notes that the convergence community is fickle. Lifelong loyalty to a brand or a movie star is a thing of the past. He gives the example of an ad where a youngster is watching an ad featuring a television.

A caption appears saying that the channel has three seconds to convince him before he zaps the channel. What media brands need to do is grab the viewer and engage him across different platforms. For example the film The Matrix was available not only on film but also in books, games, animation. The third thing firms need to keep in mind is that the convergence community wants to act as an influence of change in the world.

He gave the example of the Jessica Lal case where public pressure was brought to bear. Firms need to understand how people use technology. The race will be won by those who understand this and not necessarily to those who act the fastest.

One firm that has started to take advantage of convergence is MTNL. It has been six months since it launched its IPTV service in Mumbai. MTNL GM broadband Peeyush Agrawal says that the bandwith issues have been sorted out. Technology integration was major challenge for the firm. It has a

Contentknock platform where the content is kept on servers. "Our vision is to achieve complete simplicity within two years. Quality of experience is key. At the same time there needs to be a need for quality content from the consumer. When there is that requirement broadband will take off. I expect to have at least 50,000 IPTV subscribers next year. The customer needs a modem for the DSL stream. There is also a set top box."

He says that the IPTV package costs Rs. 299. However a fortnight from now it will introduce a package where for 15 channels one will pay much less. MTNL carries 130 channels including those from Star, Sony and Zee.

It hopes to add over a hundred this year. MTNL has also introduced a network based recording system where one can record shows. It is also looking at introducing time shift viewing on TV. Right now discussions are going on with broadcasters as they are concerned about how this will affect viewership of ads. MTNL‘s IPTV service also has a library of 850 films. The service also offers e-learning and e-shopping among other services. One can play high speed gaming with friends. In this manner it offers interactivity.

Sam Pitroda spoke about the importance of developing a knowledge based society. "A knowledge commission was set up last year to look at knowledge based initiatives. The country he notes faces skill shortages, which need to be addressed, or growth will be affected." While telecom took 20 years to get to where it is today knowledge initiatives he says will take 25 years to see fruit. The government is looking to set up a national knowlege network which will connect different places through 5000 nodes. It will cost around a billion dollars.


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