Tata DoCoMo: Devoted to the site

Last Updated: Sun, Aug 22, 2010 19:30 hrs

Tata DoCoMo is refining its ‘pay for what you use’ philosophy for its data users with a new ‘pay per site’ option. It had stirred the market in 2009 with its ‘pay per second’ calling plans, ‘pay per character’ messaging plans and daily plans. Data usage such as surfing the internet too had seen innovations such as daily GPRS plans and ‘one paisa per kilobyte’ plans. Now, DoCoMo subscribers who browse primarily two to three sites of social networking, internet email or instant messengers need not pay a lumpsum for browsing.

As opposed to charges of Rs 100 per month for browsing that some operators offer, DoCoMo subscribers would have to pay Rs 10 for the site of their choice or can opt for packs of Rs 25 per month for the bundle of sites they access. The users would get to economise their internet usage with these offers, for they would be charged 1 paisa per KB for the other sites. The sites, of course, have to be from the list that DoCoMo has drawn up of popular sites.

Since, popularity is easily gauged by the traffic a networking or emailing site draws, DoCoMo had only to study the top 200 sites and look at their usage. For now, the list consists of Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Orkut (social networking sites), Gmail, Yahoo!, Rediff (mail options) and GTalk, Yahoo! Messenger, Nimbuzz (chat messengers). "These sites taken together account for almost 40 per cent of our data usage," notes Tata DoCoMo’s head of marketing, Gurinder Singh Sandhu. The team is trying to integrate MSN’s email and messenger services in the offer. The product couldn’t be a free-wheeling choice of sites left to the consumer because of the back-end integration required in DoCoMo’s IT system.

The integration for charging a different rate (Rs 10 in this case) for certain sites required the technical team to identify the different ways a user who subscribed to the plan would enter the given site. The user could access Facebook, for example, through Google search, straight from a browser’s bookmark, through a link in his mail and so on. Once the user was routed to the pipe of information dedicated to Facebook, the special tariff would kick in.

The system has to be geared to recognise that process and hence a well-researched list of sites rather than an ad-hoc one was required. The team also had to deal with links that are present in the sites (such as advertisements and games) and the resultant data that got pushed on to the user’s phone as a result of accessing these networking sites. Too many of such external URLs would need more time to integrate. The sites already on the list are enabled for such usage. For example, users can play for Farmville on Facebook without paying anything extra, even though it would amount to data download.

The scheme would benefit users who use mobile internet so they are not cut off from their online chats and networks when away from a computer. These sites get 70-80 per cent of their monthly traffic on the mobile phone. The ad for the new plans created by FCB Ulka and produced by Footcandles conjures up a similar dedication. A young man is so devoted to building his body that he finds an opportunity to do so almost every where he goes — be it the supermarket or on a date with his girlfriend. Everything else takes a backseat.

Sandhu says that the new tariff will appeal to DoCoMo’s core target group which has been identified as the ‘Beta customer’ (to signify his propensity to adopt new trends and offers). "It is in line with our brand’s image of breaking paradigms and transparency," he adds. Video downloading is another popular activity but Sandhu knows 3G will be the real answer to revolutionise that service.

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