As India's largest private telecom operator, Bharti Airtel has over 100 million cellphone subscribers. Now it has launched an application which can take advantage of its wireless network, and be installed on any mobile handset to enable enterprises to access their data and do business from anywhere around the world.
The concept is similar to cloud computing initiatives initiated by several companies, wherein managers and salespersons (also known as the field force) access business data using the internet from their personal computers (notebooks and desktops) to transact business online.
The difference here is that executives can now use Airtel's GSM network on any mobile handset to access their business-critical data like their enterprise resource planning databases, email and intranets.
Users can install a client application called the Mobile Applications Tool for Enterprises or MATE from Airtel on their handset. MATE is an integrated telecom & IT platform, and enables authorised users only to access their business data through mobile devices.
For instance, a field agent can record symptoms of a patient in a rural area, and send it to a city-based doctor for his online prescription, and deliver the medicine to the patient -- all in a matter of a few minutes, since the agent is using his mobile and the GSM (and GPRS or internet) network.
The device can be integrated with a bluetooth printer to get a printed prescription, too. Similarly, retail, media, logistics and courier companies too can use this solution to cut their sales cycles to a few minutes. Due to the mobility, for instance, a logistics company will not need to invest in brick and mortar branches.
"The platform promises to be a great proposition for various industries that depend on their field force like retail, media, FMCG, etc. Depending on the requirements, Airtel will deploy MATE platform to help organisations in operations and ultimately deliver better customer service," says David Nishball - President, Enterprise Services, Bharti Airtel. Without divulging any names, Nishball says he has "received the maximum interest from segments like media, logistics, BFSI, and to some extent, from the government sector, too"
The move also makes business sense for Airtel, which derives around 22 per cent of its total revenues from the enterprise segment. MATE adds value to the proposition. The mobile VAS industry is expected to grow at 70 per cent over the next two years, to touch Rs 16,520 crore (Rs 165.2 billion) by end-June 2010.
Enterprise VAS is playing a crucial part in the VAS industry, offering high-value tailor-made solutions and services to enterprises. It is expected to be about Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) in about three to five years.
But the proposition is not entirely new. Enterprises today offer mobile-enabling enterprise services like capture field force data, supply chain information, sales /customer data, information from retail outlets, data about your raw material sites and more. "Field force integration is the key to business process automation, which could fill the gap effectively that PC-based internet could not address," counters Rajiv Sehgal-Head, Enterprise Mobile Solutions.
There is an inexorable shift happening from the PC-centric world to a mobile-centric world and simultaneously, we are seeing an emergence of cloud computing architecture, concurs Alok Shende, Principal Analyst of Ascentius Consulting. Airtel's new offerings on enterprise VAS, he adds, is contextualised to these emerging paradigms.
"With the launch of one of the first mobility platforms in India," he concludes, "Airtel has not only upped the ante on competition, but also created solutions that purport to cut layers of cost for their customers."
'Business on the go' is the key word here, given that, on an average, 36 per cent of employees spend a day or more away from their primary workspace.
And as a US group study indicates, by 2011, 46.6 million corporate employees will spend at least one day a week teleworking globally and an additional 112 million will work from home at least one day a month. Solutions like these, note analysts, will only help the cause.