Airtel has always experimented with Music , user relevant content since the early days of AIRTEL TANGO (2000-01) , the 6XX services (around the early 2000s) , the hello tunes era (2004 onwards) and then the whole Appification with WYNK (2014 onwards) . As the buzz and the makers grapple with the challenges of personalized content, direct access to user specific genres, relevance, the three + 1 Cs viz C-Convenience, C-Cost and C-Channel plus the C-Competition will play their role. All said and done in an era where consumers are spoilt for choice, the Music is definitely be ringing loud and clear for them. Wink and you would have missed it – a Localturnon take on Airtel’s latest WYNK TUBE and what it means !
Yes, its always been there. Music cassettes, radio, Discs, CDs , Drives, the youtubes, then the whole Gaana and Saavans of the world. In between all this the telcos who were the closest to the customers probably left it much of a VAS and VAS content that comfortably gave them 12-15% of their ARPUS in the traditional model. The disruption started with the Apps and the whole content at your fingertips, the OTT players bypassing the Telcos and biting into their pie of revenues and more importantly removing the customer proximity and reliance on their Telcos.
I remember when sitting in the D-182 Marketing team room we were being told the features of Airtel Tango. Yes it was nice to see that one could get a whole lot of interesting stuff but it was a little too early for its time. With handset limitation, network still in nascent GPRS evolution and aawareness, costs etc it kind of fizzled out then.
But it all came back when ARPUs were linked with VAS and short messaging services gave way to dedicated platforms, numbers, the VAS vendors started bundling offers, Hello tunes and caller tunes and all welcome tunes came into vogue in the mid 2000s. The VAS / User Content journey hasn’t looked back since then. Airtel had a lead then. A simple statistics that Airtel in the mid 2005s had probably the highest penetration of Hello Tunes amongst any major Telco in the world and were thinking of applying it as a success story in the GSM awards is a proof that Airtel was on the right path . Somehow the digitalization hit the Telcos at a time when they were not prepared for it. The alarming rate and uptake of the OTT services made them think their way out. Aka Apps of their own and Music came up tops.
Forward to 2014 and WYNK was launched at Airtel. Downloads happened and by Feb 2015 had crossed the 5 million download mark. By Jan 2016 it had seen the introduction of the MP3 player function and crossed the 100 Million installs in Jan 2019. The just recent WYNK TUBE announcement in April this year is being labelled as “Built for India by Airtel’s in-house team to serve the growing demand for digital entertainment on smartphones in tier 2 and 3 towns / villages with a Strong focus on a simple and highly intuitive interface made available in multiple Indian Regional Languages”
Okay so the WYNK TUBE available on android currently and an extension of the WYNK Music, allows users to stream audio and video of popular tracks and toggle between the modes. Okay the schema and the UI supports regional language or shall so as mentioned in the annoucement. Okay also to the fact that its extremely light – less than 6 MB in size and should work fast in the BHARAT of INDIA and suit the intended audiences in the tier 2 and 3 towns , villages. With over 40 Million songs in its repository it should be able to satisfy the users for 12 Indian regional langauges. And then there are the smart works into the app like real time user preference and suggestions, the deep dive and collation of the device content and interplay on the app. In their words WYNK TUBE will help Airtel accelerate their journey to the next 100 Million users with regional content, personalization, AI, big Data and hopes that it grows into one of the success stories in the time to come. While Airtel users will not be charged for the services , other Telco users will have to pay Rs 99 post one month of services.
Hmm.. all sounds good on the fly but as someone who has been into the Telco Business since 1998 and has dabbled into digital, social and analytics for telecom products WYNK TUBE in its current avtar also raises questions. Not that Airtel wouldn’t have thought about them. In all probability these would get answered as these are the initial stages in the WYNK TUBE’s journey.
In any venture you do product or service launches to serve three sides of the business prism – P&L account, Customer engagement or enrichment and Competition tackling. Now WYNK may get the users involved and can boast to be a staple telco app of its kind in the Indian Market though Jio-Saavan will be a different monster to handle when it gets into shape. And with Vodafone-idea working on their own model it will take them some time. But what about monetization- why is customer monetization not coming upfront as a pivotal point in this whole APP Story. If you are the pipe that the customers are using why not get into user generated content like tiktok, bigo and others have gotten into. Content exclusivity and first to market are open questions. Content decay will not get customer stickiness. Also with a range of open access points present before customers when it comes to Music and Music downloads it will remain to be seen how Airtel Balances the three sides of the business Prism.
The next 100 Million customers are awaited by WYNK TUBE and while the app may have got the basics right we just feel there is something amiss here. Airtel that I know is known for disruptions in the market be it the Lifetime PrePaid or the Hello Tunes that has driven in the numbers. In today’s times where digital-ventions are the norm of the day you expect the announcements that shake the market and unleash a copy-paste or copy-improve-launch or improvise-launch kind of scenarios in the Industry. Airtel has always been known for it. Lets see if the WYNK TUBE will lead us to such scenario in the coming times.
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