Will Seven APAC get lucky with mobile e-mail?

Siddharth Mahajan, CEO of Seven thinks so.

From the article,

“We believe it’s going to be mobile e-mail’s year,” said Siddharth Mahajan, vice president and general manager of Seven Asia-Pacific. “We are putting all the right structures in place to help the market grow and hopefully we’ll see the results coming in Q3 or Q4 this year.”


“We see an evolution of the [mobile] e-mail market starting with enterprises,” Mahajan said. “But at the same time, we also see a growing trend where a growing number of users would like to get access to their IMAP and POP e-mail accounts from the mobile phone.”

Like previous versions, the Consumer Edition push e-mail application will allow users to send and receive e-mail on handsets from different vendors, said Mahajan. Users will also be able to read, edit, re-send e-mail attachments, and maintain always-on access to their calendar and contacts when on the move, he added.

However, Mahajan noted that while the mobile e-mail is immensely popular North America, it still ranks a distant second behind text-based short messaging (SMS) applications in Asia.

He conceded that it is probably due to the fact that “text messaging is a popular messaging application across Asia”, though he expects mobile e-mail to strike a chord with the business crowd.

“As far as business communication goes, your e-mail is important,” Mahajan explained. “You can’t close business deals using SMS. The moment you want to get into a formal type of communication, you need to use e-mail.”

The senior Seven executive was also bullish about mobile e-mail’s chances in developing countries like India and China. Citing India as an example, Mahajan noted that the number of e-mail users outnumber the number of PCs in the country, which could give operators an opportunity to showcase the virtues of mobile e-mail.

“We believe there is going to be a huge demand for mobile e-mail in this segment. India has probably an estimated 150 million email users but only 50 million computers,” observed Mahajan. “That clearly shows that a lot of the e-mail users are actually using Internet cafes or office PCs to access their email accounts.”

Mahajan said for this group of consumers without access to a PC, the ability to communicate and type e-mail messages using the mobile phone will be an “attractive factor”.

ZDNet Asia – “Seven: This will be mobile e-mails year“.

Sounds like his reasoning is way off target. So far my own bet has been not on mobile e-mail, but on mobile entertainment.

When you take a serious look at the 100 million users of the internet that Mr. Mahajan talks about, a few assumptions come to light.

The typical westernized solution that companies like Seven could offer through carriers includes a typical monthly service fee at around USD 20 per month. This includes unlimited e-mail access and the ability to add one or more POP and IMAP accounts. On the move, the consumer can get access to either a push-based e-mail solution or an on-demand e-mail solution. Personally, to me such a price wouldn’t seem very right – until and unless Seven had a creative model and a cheap solution to change that in India.

What problem can mobile e-mail solve for that user segment?According to him, they don’t own a PC, and yet they have access to their e-mail through work, and cyber-cafes. In other words, these users answer their personal e-mail when they would like to. It wouldn’t hurt if they went a few days without answering their e-mail.

E-mail happens to be a relatively formal activity when compared to SMS. However, they both thrive on the network effect. In the USA, all my friends had active e-mail lives. I knew I could count on near instant replies. In contrast, My friends here in India, who have limited access to the Internet don’t expect me to reply to e-mails in an instant. SMS on the other hand is a totally different culture. I am almost always expected to reply. Even if I could compose an e-mail to my friends while on the move, I know that they would not reply immediately. Turning behaviour around would be Seven’s (and other personal e-mail providers’) greatest challenge.

I think e-mail is a great feature to have if you have already subscribed to mobile data, I can’t be sure if many folks like me will want it turned on just for e-mail’s sake. In any case, I could still get a custom solution from my e-mail provider rather than rely on Seven.

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3 Comments on “Will Seven APAC get lucky with mobile e-mail?”

  1. Mandar says:

    Santosh, right analysis. Changing the way email has been looked upon by Indian population is the real challenge. And in doing so, solution providers like Seven would definitely need to come up with different (read: cheaper) billing models. Remember, SMS / mobile got popular only when the charges came down.

    I feel, e-mail on the mobile would be the way couple of years down the line but not in near future. Current mobile operators are still fighting with network congestions and providing smooth access to internet. Lack of infrastructure is the limiting factor as of now, IMO.

    – Mandar

  2. Santosh says:

    Mandar,

    Thanks for stopping by. Which mobile operator are you with?

    – Santosh

  3. Mandar says:

    Hutch – would be Vodafone 🙂