Star Wireless ready to roll by July end

MUMBAI: Star's wireless services, thus far known by short code 7827, is to ready roll out in a charged up avatar by the end of July.

Radio City COO, Sumantra Dutta who now dons the additional hat of Star India's newly created wireless business development division, told today that 7827 will be leveraged in the coming months to provide a range of services including exclusive content from the Star stable, mobile gaming (custom made Kyunki... games, to give an example) as well as help lines and info services.

The marketing campaign for the envisaged next big revenue spinner in entertainment is likely to break in the next three weeks. "It's a good business for a broadcaster like us with television and radio content to get into, because we have the ability to talk to 200 odd million people on a daily basis, and are able to communicate about the 7827 service for tones, downloads, a whole range of service," says an enthusiastic Dutta.

7827 has been around for two years, but is going to be leveraged like nothing seen before in the next two weeks. Dutta says the decision to give 7827 a focus in terms of making a separate division for it was taken towards the beginning of the year, when it was realised that it would work. An internal project team worked on the concept for India mid 2003, with representations from Star management teams in different markets China, India, Taiwan and the Middle East, of which Sumo Dutta was a part, and where it was decided that SMS was going to have a huge business potential. A couple of months ago, says Sumo, he was given the charge of a separate division to set up to look into this business.

Star Wireless, as it is being termed, will work totally on and feed off television and radio, because the content and the ability to talk to the masses is available only through these media, which can keep reinforcing the message. There will be a large amount of non Star content that Star Wireless will provide, says Dutta

The other content offered could be linked to best deals, astrology, traffic, medical emergencies, logo downloads, wallpapers, mobile phone gaming... the list is endless.

Star Wireless will operate on a revenue share basis with cell operators in the country, all of whom have been tied in, except for BSNL, with whom talks are in progress and with Reliance for the CDMA front. "We are helping further their business," he points out, by "developing the culture of SMSing and driving mass SMSing."

Importantly, Star has the wherewithal to educate the masses about how to SMS via the airwaves, as well as push the services.

The positioning of the revamped version of 7827 will be that it is the short code of choice for the masses, and the communication in the campaign currently being worked on is that '7827 has arrived.'

The initial set of services will focus on the exclusive content that Star has. "You can interact with our shows on TV and radio, play games, contests, which in itself is a big offering," says Dutta.

The Star Wireless team will comprise just a dozen key people, because a lot of the business, as Dutta says, will be done on alliances with multiple partners.

The biggest investment apart from that in infrastructure and people will be in airtime, to educate the masses about the use of 7827, a process that will go on for a few months initially.

Talking about the growth of the division, Dutta says Star plans to target a large subset of the 200 million TV viewers who happen to be mobile phone owners. In the next six months, at least 30 per cent of the market will be cornered by 7827, and by the end of the July fiscal next year, 50 per cent of the market.

Star Wireless will not intervene with programming in any way, although Sumo says internationally the business does help ratings go up. It will help in brand recall, increase interactivity and involvement.

It will move towards a monthly subscription parameter, but right now, Star is focusing on developing mass usage of services that are offered, to check which are feasible and then put the more used ones into a package, says Dutta.c

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