Forum Nokia gets a warm Namaste

January 20, 2009; BANGALORE: At its first-ever Forum Nokia conference in India, the global handset leader made a Godfather-like 'offer you can't refuse' to the largest geographic concentration of its worldwide application developer family: Come, tap into a lucrative mobile value added services (M-VAS) market, worth a hundred billion dollars by next year. India-based registered Nokia developers -- some 150,000 at last count -- grow at a spanking 58% every year, reported Kenny Mathers, Forum Nokia's Asia Pacific head, kicking off the day long tech 'mela'. The largest hall at the Taj Residency hotel in Bangalore can seat about a thousand and every chair was taken when Forum Nokia Product Marketing Director Srikanth Raju reeled out the magic numbers, like a comedian warming up the crowd before the main act: 3.3 billion mobile phones worldwide, over a million of them Nokias; 220 countries using GSM services; over 4 million Forum Nokia members and in India, the largest and fastest growing mobile developer community, harnessing C++, Java, Python, Ajax, Flash and Silverlight, to create compelling applications in messaging, navigation games, music, mapping, digital imaging, video and TV. To them, Nokia offered a 'cute' proposition -- its QT cross platform user interface for mobile and PC -- as well as the prospect of an imminent free and open Symbian bedrock layer ... but if you had seen our curtain raiser yesterday in this space, you were of course, not surprised : we had suggested this was likely, Nokia's core message. Rajesh Nair, General Manager Corporate Marketing, Idea Cellular, has his own warm up trick: VAS stood for Very Annoying Service, and he had his wife's permission to say so. Some seemingly cool apps didn't pan out in India, he warned. Example the 'dismal' record of railway bookings via mobile, even as the PC web site operation was doiing roaring business. Top apps in India were caller ring back tunes, mobile radio, ringtones, music , all voice, you see, no data -- yet. We have some 900,000 mobile hand set retailers in India, but they don't sell VAS, Mr Nair added. "Our selling techniques can be intrusive" he admitted. How intrusive, we learnt from Deepak Halan, Group Business Director, at market watchers IMRB International. Something quite ghastly called AdRBT or Advert Ring Back Tone: You call some one and get, not a nice ring tone but an ad. With 375 million phones, India was the world's no. 2 phone market -- and the next 100 million will come from rural India, he predicted. Early warning: Number portability was on the government's radar -- for the big metros by mid year, so the challenge of rising subscriber numbers and falling average revenue per user (ARPU) would only intensify, Mr Halan warned. From Santa Clara, California, Krishna Vedati, CEO of Plusmo, Inc, brought widget-laden tidings of joy: There was content aplenty out there; now, create the apps to exploit them -- that service providers would find compelling , and couldn't refuse. Hey, isn't that where we started? Altogether now, in your best Marlon Brando rasp: I'll make him a mobile offer he can't refuse". Forum Nokia India: