Posts filed under ‘Technology’

Is your social media presence working for your brand? (Part 2)

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “How much influence did these ads have? …are there tools you can use to evaluate what impact these ads might or might not have had on each of your platforms with respect to the opinions… that Americans were forming…?”

Colin Stretch (Facebook’s General Counsel): “…we do have tools to help advertisers measure their return on investment… to help them understand different campaigns… For campaigns like we saw… they were intended to drive followership of the pages – getting people to like the page. There the return on investment is clear in how many people liked the page.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “So would you consider the return on roubles invested, on the money they invested, did it make sense? Were they under or over expectations?”

Colin Stretch: “I can’t say what the expectations were; I do think it’s clear they were able to drive a significant following”

This conversation happened right at the beginning of the Facebook, Google and Twitter testimony to the congressional committee hearing Russia’s election interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election. It demonstrates some of the confusion prevalent in measuring digital and social media activities… What should the campaign intention be? Are we measuring campaigns to manage them, or are we measuring in order to understand a campaigns’ actual impact? How do we define impact, and what tools do we use to measure this impact? What should the expectation of the ROI be from this medium?  Judging from the answers given at the hearing, not many people, even within Facebook, understand how to quantify the ‘impact’ of activities conducted online in an offline environment.

What is the impact?

When Social Media took off in India, the first thing that brands asked was, “What should we do on this medium?” Advice came aplenty.  Now that some of them have been on it for a few years and poured in more than a little money, they’ve started asking, “What is the impact of all my efforts on it?”  The conversations that happen then are not different from the one quoted at the beginning of this post.

There are fundamentally three questions that need to be answered when assessing the impact of any marketing activity:

  • Has the person of my choice – Target Group (TG) – viewed the message?
  • Having viewed the message, does the TG think of my brand differently?
  • Did the TG change behaviour / take an action that benefited (purchase of) my brand?

The muddling up of the objectives

Prior to any mass media activity, businesses and / or marketers are extremely diligent in defining TG, brand attributes, key message take-out, desired action (marketing objective) etc. Once these are clearly defined, the answers to the three questions above are obtained through measurement of the relevant parameters, and the success of the activity is determined.

But, when it comes to digital and social media, critical points such as objective, key message take-out etc. are not clearly defined, which makes measurement of impact difficult and accountability of the digital agency even tougher to enforce. At best, some effort goes into defining and answering the first question – reaching the right TG. Beyond this, thanks to strategies that social media evangelists and agencies propagate, ‘engagement’ becomes an end in itself. After all, isn’t social media all about, “listening in to conversations that customers are having and then participating and connecting with them by initiating and having more meaningful conversations?”

facebook-marketing-objectives

Then there are some more ‘activities’ thrown in as ‘objectives’ and ‘goals’ by the networks themselves – building presence, creating awareness, driving discovery, acquiring customers, customer service/experience etc. With a plethora of such ‘objectives’ floating around, it’s not surprising that businesses and marketers are confused and  sometimes forget that these are the means to the end and not the end itself.

While setting campaign goals, it’s critical to focus on the ultimate objective – to induce a behaviour change in the consumer that leads to cash registers ringing – and tie-in all activities and metrics to it. Without establishing the link, any money you spend online is akin to gambling on little more than faith.

Drowning in data and measurements

Everything that the brand does during a campaign and how the consumer interacts with it is tracked and logged.  Multiply the number of channels in play with the number of ad formats with the number of user actions possible and you get a sense of the amount of data to parse. For example, a brand could use a combination of websites and social networks, to show a mix of rich media, text and video ads using one or more ad servers that require a user to click and reach a brand page and eventually buy something.

Lightbeam Tracking

Then there is the bigger problem of attribution and trying to measuring online-to-offline activity, which is increasingly complicated by the usage and movement of the users between devices, measurement in platform silos, non-linearity of user actions and use of tracking protection etc. For example a user might have viewed a brand video on a mobile app, remembered it and then searched for the brand on his desktop browser wherein the text ad was shown, clicked on it, landed on the website, read about the product and finally made an offline purchase a few weeks later.

With the amount of data captured in the example above, it’s easy to get tangled in answering activity level questions – trying to piece together what happened, where, why / why not etc., and lose sight of the more fundamental questions that we mentioned  towards the beginning of this post. Marketers today have access to more data than ever before, yet there is still a lot of confusion about which data to track and focus on for assessing the impact on the brand.

An approach:

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to measuring impact, here’s one approach – always think about these three fundamental questions. Start with understanding your online audience first. Then your marketing goals, the outcomes that you want to achieve. Identify data sources you need to help answer those outcome questions – both online and offline. Find ways to integrate these sources to get a more holistic understanding of offline actions basis online views. If real time decisions are needed, use estimates and proxies to tie media metrics to business outcomes. And of course, set up the right tests to validate or reject the hypotheses later.

For example, you might want to answer the question, ‘has the message been viewed by the right TG?’ Then, it would be critical to segment and zero in on the right audience prior to the activity, understand if the media buy reflected that audience, if the ad was served to this right audience and if this audience actually viewed the ad. The extended demographics of the audience, viewability and attention metrics of the ads are a few measures that help you answer this question.

If you are trying to answer, ‘has the TG changed his/her behaviour and purchased a brand in-store,’ determine what the best proxy to measure this is. For example, if the purchase funnel shows that awareness is the biggest driver, then evaluate ‘lift’ in ad recall and brand awareness scores in research studies apart from actual buying itself. If decisions need to be made real time, then use proxies of media metrics (such as mobile ad views, website visits, video completion rate etc.) that tie-in with the business outcome of purchase.

Measures

I’ve often heard digital agencies say that more measuring means limiting creative thinking, that the power of the medium is the agility that it offers, and that one can operate on an iterative and ‘learn as you go mechanism’. With the incredible growth of online advertising, it is high time businesses and marketers had access to a robust methodology to measure how brand perception shifts and sales are driven by activities conducted online.

In the next post, we’ll look at some ways that large firms measure impact and how we can improve them.

  • Ravindra Ramavath
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December 12, 2017 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

Is your social media presence working for your brand?

social media pic 1

Gone are the days when spends on digital and social media were a miniscule percentage of overall marketing spends and managing them was relegated to young interns who already had a presence on social platforms. While most companies have woken up to the power of the medium, there is also more than a little apprehension as questions abound about utility and returns on this medium.

This post is a summary of learnings from various sources; my experience handling various digital media agencies – overseeing email, search, digital and social media marketing, from observing various types of social media campaigns and their impact, and from studying the latest behavioural research on this topic. Read on…

Don’t buy fans and followers; favour organic growth:

While planning a social media campaign, one of the first suggestions on the table is likely to be a contest with products being handed out for free in order to lure new followers or create a buzz.

The argument for chasing fans and followers during the early days of social media was that the consumers engaged via social media were more likely to buy and recommend the brand. Now, studies have shown that the mere act of endorsing a brand does not affect a consumer’s behaviour or lead to increased purchasing, nor does it spur purchasing by the consumers’ friends.  As marketers experienced this, the argument for chasing fans and followers moved from getting these fans to buy your products to using these followers to spread information on the brand.

But such luring tactics often attract the wrong people who are not strongly attached to the brand. This leads to low engagement with content which defeats the whole purpose of acquiring these fans to spread information. Letting fans and followers grow organically, you are likely to attract those with a positive predisposition towards your brand. And on this foundation, meaningful campaigns can be built going forward.

Have channel specific campaigns and strategy:

For brands, it’s become a norm to be present on multiple social networks. The content is created with focus on one social media network, usually Facebook, and then cross posted (same content across networks) or cross promoted (content modified slightly for other networks). At times, content is cross-linked between social media, e.g., driving people from Twitter to a Facebook campaign. While the reason expressed for this is that the audience on various networks is different and one is maximizing reach, the underlying reason is most often economies.  You save effort, you save time, and ultimately you save money.

Everyone knows that there are big differences between different social networks – predominant content format, posting structure, audience profile and how a user interacts with them. If the differences are so fundamental and so wide, how can one strategy work effectively across?

The big folly is that we put all digital and social as one arm of an integrated media campaign. The result? Marketers and brand managers think of campaigns across digital and social as one campaign rather than thinking about integrated digital campaigns with each network on one arm. It is crucial to pick the right network for a brand rather than jumping on to the next social media bandwagon. Select social networks that fit brand message, type of content, and target audience. Then ensure that the strategy for each channel is in line with the consumer behaviour and interaction that the channel dictates.

Go beyond content marketing, pre-roll ads; collaborate:

Of late, you see a plethora of brands releasing 2-7 minute long videos on YouTube. While most of them in India are released on festive occasions or events, and are about family relationships, it’s not uncommon to see brands talking about issues like self-consciousness, gender stereotypes, sexuality, empowerment etc. Call it storytelling, branded content marketing, brand purpose videos, every agency and marketer wants to create that next “viral video” that wins awards!

The reality is that Consumers often see through these tactics and recognise the intention behind the content that the brands churn out. Very few brands have generated meaningful consumer interest in such “amazingly awesome”, “heart wrenching” videos. Then, in desperation, comes the artificial trending and pre-roll pushing of these videos which are routinely ignored and skipped.  Brands need to go beyond this ‘advertising on digital media’ mentality and take advantage of the many possibilities that digital and social media offer today.

For instance, consider youtube. YouTube has a simple Venn diagram indicating the sweet spot for developing a video content strategy. Since it is tough for a brand to “Create” all the content that fits this sweet spot, they suggest considering the options to “Collaborate” and “Curate”. HBR talks about the rise of crowd culture where today you’ll find a flourishing crowd around almost any topic. Cooking, parenting, health, fashion, films, arts, skin care… you name it and chances are you’ll find entertainers you’ve never heard of, some with  millions of followers. That’s where the leverage of collaboration comes in – content that fits the brand message and target audience can be produced and promoted in partnership with the creator’s channel.

Listen to everything; Measure appropriately:

Social Media Command Center

Geoff Livingston / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0

Of late, companies have started creating social “command centers” – rooms with wall-to-wall computer screens and projections, tracking campaigns and brand chatter in real-time across social networks 24×7. These are used to a) create relevant content speedily around a campaign or event, b) receive and respond to consumer feedback and c) identify and mitigate potential PR crises (of late this is becoming the #1 reason for establishing such centers).

While such centres turn big data into beautiful data, more often than not, they fail to deliver on expectations. Those who look at such data closely, berate the inadequacy in data gathering, integration and analysis tools. And those in senior management don’t relate to, and state as meaningless, graphs of retweets, likes, mentions and sentiments. Core to both of these issues, is that the business case (outcome) of social listening is not clearly defined and the investment is justified by activity.

If the primary role of social media is managing consumer feedback, the meaningful measures should be related to traditional consumer feedback mechanisms like call centres (number of calls reduced, speed in resolution etc.). If it is for listening to consumer talk, then measures should be related to traditional research programs (insights generated, product feedback received etc.). These are tricky to measure, but despite the innate difficulties involved, such measurement and attribution is important and possible.

Though social media has been around for more than a decade now, it’s still relatively new and brands are still figuring out a way to navigate and leverage this medium to create impact. In the next post, we’ll delve into an approach to measure the impact and returns on this medium.

    • Ravindra Ramavath

November 20, 2017 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Jio – 7 months after

jiolaunchA lot of data has passed through the Jio network since we wrote the last post on Jio in September ’16. More than 100 crore GB of data which by their own yield estimate of Rs.50/GB, is Rs. 5,000 crore of revenue lost for someone!  In a little less than a day, the data freebie on Jio ends and it will become a paid service. In a few days after that, we’ll know what this massive freebie translated into, in terms of new customers and their value.

I’ve been using Jio for the last 5 months, first as a secondary mobile connection primarily for data (my guess is that most people who are still are using it, are doing the same) and now as my primary and only mobile connection.  Hence, I’m mentioning below my opinion about a few things that I think have worked for Jio, and a few that have not, both from an end-user’s perspective and a marketers’.

First, what worked :

  • Freebie and Prime strategy: The freebie strategy worked, and how ! Jio crossed the 50 million subscriber mark in 83 days, something its competitors in India took more than 12 years to touch. Then, in another 87 days they hit the 100 million subscriber mark. When competitors tried hard to match the initial tariffs / plans that Jio announced, Jio overwrote them with new Prime membership plans. Pricing annual Prime membership at a rock-bottom Rs. 99 ensured that they enrolled 50 million subscribers within a month and before the current go-live date of 1st April for paid services. So, on launch day, it might well have the highest number of mobile broadband users in India (Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator had between 41-60 million 3G+4G customers in 2016 according to various News reports). The Prime plan with low data tariffs has also ensured that they have a good chance of locking in customers for another year, experiencing and testing their network while Jio irons out issues.
  • Unique customers / minimum duplications: Using the MyJio app and generating a unique barcode per device they’ve ensured – to a large extent – that there is only one Jio connection per phone / IMEI number. The unique barcode per phone and Aadhar based eKYC means Jio has very accurate knowledge about who their live customer is. This enables them to actually track ARPU (per user) rather than ARPU (per SIM) which is what the industry is compelled to track now. Remember, India has more than 12 billion telecom subscribers (November 2016) which is about 1.2 SIMS per phones in circulation (~760 million phones in circulation). Millions of disconnections happen when the regulator comes up with new rules for subscriber verification or when operators decide to clean up their Virtual Location Registers (a database of all the SIM cards being serviced on their network). By Jio’s own estimates the active SIMs will reduce by 330 million to 800 million with no voice arbitrage within a short time.
  • LYF smartphones: In 2016, Reliance Retail launched their own brand of smartphones called LYF. Prices of these phones started from a very competitive Rs 3,999 and were probably aimed at pushing 4G phones into India (“fuelled the 4G ecosystem” in Jio’s own words). By Q3-CY 16, they started bundling free Jio SIMs and apps on these phones giving them a good base of customers who stress tested their network and service infrastructure. In that quarter, LYF smartphone share crossed 7% by volume and became the #5 brand of smartphone in India. More importantly, competition caught up, now all smartphones shipped in India are LTE enabled with 7 out of 10 being 4G enabled. That’s some good groundwork and substantial base for Jio’s 4G network.
  • JioMoney tie-up with the Uber: In February, Uber and Jio announced a strategic partnership enabling payment of Uber trips using Jio’s mobile wallet JioMoney. Till then, Paytm was the only wallet option on Uber India and for Paytm, Uber was one of its biggest merchants, if not the biggest. While Jio gives out numbers of its mobile subscribers, it doesn’t give out details of adoption of their apps – which seems to be a small proportion of their user base (Google Play store indicates between 10-50 million installs of the Jio app while it’s greater than 50 million installs for Paytm). Uber gives Jio users a strong reason to migrate to using the Jiomoney app which will play a critical role for growth of Jio’s other media services apps – currently Jio is giving out free content worth over Rs. 10,000 per year to each Prime user.

What hasn’t worked and needs improvement:

  • Jio4gvoice app: This was a master stroke and a necessary evil for acquiring more customers – there are already 124 million LTE devices, not all of them VoLTE capable – but one that has the maximum potential to alienate them too. Jio4gvoice is essentially a voice calling app that enables non-VoLTE (4G-LTE) devices to be used for making calls on the Jio network. When I checked the Google play store last, there were more than 50 million installs of this app (almost a proxy of how many non-VoLTE devices are being used on their network). On these phones, this app has to be always connected to their data network, to make and receive calls and SMSes and this drains the battery quickly. Added to this, every new update brings a fresh set of bugs with it. And because it is the only way to make a call on Jio with non-VoLTE phones, any bugs in this app are the first to be noticed and the most frustrating aspect of Jio.
  • Network and Speeds: Jio might have the ‘capacity to carry 100% of India’s voice traffic’ or claim to have the ‘lowest call drop in Industry’ and offer the ‘BEST experience’. But, my experience has been quite contrary to these claims. On the move, the network has disconnection and connection issues leading to frequent call drops and inability to call back quickly. In locations like airports, they have serious network issues. JioNet could have helped in such high traffic areas, but it hasn’t been rolled out adequately and has since dropped from prime plans. As far as being the world’s largest data network goes, rarely have I obtained speeds above 1 Mbps.
  • Call connection issues: It’s common knowledge now that Jio faced issues connecting calls to users of other networks as they didn’t get sufficient points of interconnect’s (PoIs) from other telecom operators. Though the busy hour call failure rate has dropped from the highs of 88% when they launched in September, it still hovers between 8-12% (Jio publishes data on their website on a daily basis). It is really frustrating that even after 6 months, a fair bit of this issue remains. Once Jio becomes a paid service, if this issue persists, it is going to cause more agony to customers.
  • Customer service: I’ve already mentioned in my last post that the experience with Jio at customer touchpoints hasn’t been satisfactory. My aggravation with this increased last month. I had to make multiple visits to their store as well as make multiple calls to their call center to get clarity on some issues. Every time I was given a different answer, and many a times an incorrect one. Then there are other basic processes which don’t work – for example, DND activation via their app doesn’t work.
  • Finally the Marketing:
    • Relentless communication to existing user base: Either their CRM back-end has not been integrated to the payment back-end, or it is not synced frequently enough, or their marketers, data analysts and programmers are being plain lazy. Whatever the reason, existing users – even those who have enrolled into plans – have been bombarded with 100s of messages and push notifications (many of them incomplete) asking them to enrol into one of the various plans. People might ignore them as long as they are getting stuff for free, once they start paying, it’s a different expectation altogether.
    • Advertising: They had a pug, a zoo-zoo and a catchy jingle / catchphrase as benchmarks to beat. What do they come up with? Flying balloons – lots of them! No wonder it made it to the bad set of the annual list of the best and the bekaar ads.

While it has got a number of things right, a couple of the above are real deal breakers. No network or frequent network disconnections and low speeds are going to turn off people even if they’ve subscribed into dirt-cheap prime plans. And it’s a matter of time before competition cuts their prices to a reasonable level and offers superior services.

Will voice services become a non-differentiator? Will data explosion start and / or continue with commencement of paid services of Jio? Will Jio be able to meet its grand 2021 vision of capturing more than 50% of the 3 lakh crore data market it is projecting ? A close watch on how these tactics by the incumbents and Jio play out through the rest of the year will give us a fair guesstimate.

Update (a day after this post ) :

Just as you thought the freebies won’t end, they’ve extended enrolment for prime till April 15th. This is probably because they could only enrol 72 million so far.

Then the free service goes on till July 1st. While they say this is to enable Jio customers to fully familiarise Jio customers with their services and enable digital payments for further purchases, I think the problem is somewhere else. 1 lakh towers will be added to the 1 lakh towers already existing in the coming months. There are “small pockets of congestion” on the network impacting service quality.

  • Ravindra Ramavath

March 31, 2017 at 6:38 am Leave a comment

The curious case of EHR

healthapplogosSince 2013, there has been an explosion of start-up activity in the Healthcare space in India. AngelList lists about 1,139 companies in the healthcare space in India. Fundamentally, the various activities that these start-ups are engaged in can be broadly bucketed into 9 spaces –  locating and booking (doctor, pharmacy, diagnostic centres), telemedicine, managing health information, devices (fitness as well as medical), commerce, home care, practice management and networking / sharing within doctor communities, general information and content. Many companies are doing a mix of these activities. 

ehr-dataA quick dig into the data from AngelList in the table on the side; as it shows, much of the focus of entrepreneurial activity so far has been on connecting doctors and patients, and on digitising clinic / hospital operations. There are just 11 companies listed  under Electronic Health Records and it is at the bottom of the list.

Why is management of health information / Electronic Health Records (EHR), languishing with just a few focusing on it?


What are EHR?

One generates so much health data without realising it; during any illness there’s the list of symptoms, medical history, diagnostic data (lab test, imaging…), treatment history (prescriptions and medications), progress notes etc., and even in the normal course of life there’s immunisation history (in the case of kids), allergies, biometric data (BP, sugar…), lifestyle choices (sleep, diet, exercise…) etc. These are all discretely recorded somewhere – on paper or as printed reports or as images or on wearable devices (including mobile phones!) – and then discarded later, except in the case of a chronic illness. Simply put, an EHR is a collection of all these medical records that are generated whenever an individual interacts with any healthcare service.


What are the advantages of systematically recording health?

Digitising health records has a host of rewards:

  • Easy sharing of data with all stakeholders involved in patients care
  • Better evidence based diagnosis and care as it provides a patient’s full history
  • More accurate reporting by patients and faster diagnosis
  • Better monitoring of medication or recommendation compliance / adherence
  • Lower costs from reuse of old lab test results as well as from eliminating redundancies in data capture (and burden on office staff)
  • Increases accountability of health care professionals
  • Robust analytics including predictive analytics which can help governments make better health policy decisions or help insurers / medical product companies design and optimise their products better

In the case of India, recognising the importance of EHR to deliver Universal Health Coverage (UHC, ‘easily accessible and affordable health care to all Indians by 2020’), the High Level Expert Group (HLEG)  constituted by the government recommended, ‘adoption of system-wide Electronic Medical Records’ (Recommendation 3.6.3).

So, coming back to the question, with so many advantages and a government push behind it, why are so few health start-ups working on EHR?

Who is generating the data and who’s digitising it?

Fundamentally, there are 3 places where this data is being generated – at the doctor, at the lab / pharmacy and by the user through devices. And there are multiple ways this data can be digitised – by any of the aforementioned or by an intermediary.

The best case to digitise information would be at the source – by the generators viz., the doctors or the hospitals. However, there are a number of reasons why this is not happening yet in India:

  • Doctor’s maintain a record only when they see a long term need or opportunity. And, this need is felt only in some specialities where a patient can be retained longer or where the diseases are chronic. Some examples would be dentistry, gynaecology, psychiatry, paediatrics, diabetology and cardiology. Even in such cases, many a times, the physicians seldom take the responsibility for maintenance of records in any form. The general habit is to hand over the file to the patient who brings it for every consultation. Where the data is maintained by the physician, they use it to raise entry barriers and don’t give access even to the patient easily.
  • In many other specialities, practitioners would argue that there is practically no reason to know a patients’ general history for certain illnesses. For example, in general medicine, most ailments are treated by assessing near term causes and not many doctors really bother about (or need to bother about) longitudinal health history before prescribing the next course of action. In many a case, history is disregarded as well and medical tests etc., are routinely redone though the previous ones are perfectly valid.
  • Most of the current methods of digitising are cumbersome and demand extra time from the doctor. So these are not done in real time, passed on to low cost resources (usually interns and nurses) or are transcribed by an untrained third party later. Due to this, many a times, errors creep in; making the data unreliable and useless for future use.
  • In spite of all these drawbacks, there is one place where massive health records are being generated at source – the hospitals – especially in the In-Patient Departments (IPDs). That’s because the rules under the Clinical Establishments Act were revised in 2012 , and then mandated ‘maintenance and provision of EMR/EHR for every patient’ for registration and continuation of all clinical establishments. However, most hospitals do it as a tick mark to meet compliance as data standards are still not in place (as of May’16, the Ministry of Health (MOHFW) was still seeking comments and views on the EHR standards from public). To meet compliance many small clinics and private hospitals scan and store hand written memos, and while many large private hospitals use EHR, they fail to deliver on the main criteria of standardisation and interoperability.

So, there are fundamentally  two problems at source – behaviour change and lack of standards.

The second generator of massive amounts of health records are the numerous labs and pharmacies. And here is where the easy wins lie in digitising records but where there is little focus and attention from start-ups. Again, a host of factors stopping adoption:

  • A lab is essentially a hotchpotch of instruments, each spewing data in its own proprietary format. The technicians then input them into the lab’s software which is mostly customised (a very fragmented custom software market exists in this space), which then gives out a report in a different format. The same is the case of pharmacies. A pharmacy can chose from hundreds of different software and enters data according to its own needs. One can enter the name of the medicine, test, doctor and patient in any way one desires. Lack of data standards, low integrity of master data.
  • Each lab and pharmacy is an enterprise in itself. There are approximately 5.5 lac pharmaceutical retailers in India and organized retail contributes to less than 3% of total pharmacy retail sales. Many of them hand over handwritten bills or give out prescription medicines over the counter. Organised players control only 15-20% of diagnostics industry revenue. This fragmentation compounded by lack of digitisation and regulation amplifies the previous problem manifold and makes interoperability of data virtually impossible. Also, demand hugely outstrips supply so even these organised players don’t see any merits in long term engagement of captive and existing customer base.

So, again two big problems at the pharmacy or lab – lack of standards and regulation.

The third place where information digitisation can be done is through the user.  This is what Google Health tried and what Microsoft HealthVault and some of the Indian health care start-ups are attempting. Users have to either manually  enter health records, upload the data or authorise these companies to access their lab results, prescription history, and visit records from various partner labs, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics. They can also connect their home-health devices and push data to a central repository. These companies would import, clean and merge potentially separate health records into one centralized health profile. Here again there are a host of barriers to digitisation:

  • Many a times, the user doesn’t get electronic copies (especially of medical images which are difficult to scan). While one gets hard copies, manually entering information into a system is both painful and cumbersome. Even if one has the patience and enthusiasm to do it, errors happen due to limited understanding of the technical data being entered. And a big negative feedback loop is added, if doctors are not interested in looking at this data either due to habit or distrust of this data.
  • One of the two reasons why a user would take the effort to organise and / or digitise his health history is the opportunity to use those for preventive care. However, prevention as a plank has seldom motivated Indian consumers to adopt something.
  • Discerning consumers also might be concerned about confidentiality and security issues with data uploaded onto servers of relatively unknown third party players. Who will own data uploaded? Who all will access these records and for what purpose? These are all pertinent issues that the user has to be reassured about before uploading sensitive health data on the internet.

Though a company like Google tried this user driven approach to EHR to help one “make smarter choices”, it shut operations in 4 years.

Are there any successes? What are the reasons for the same?

There are some countries where information is digitised, of course, and a big part of it has to do with Government push both in terms of defining and enforcing standards and also forcing behaviour change via regulations.

In the UK, where health care services are free at the point of use to permanent residents via the NHS, it’s in the governments’ interest to set up the IT infrastructure to bring more efficiency and effectiveness into the delivery of healthcare. In the US, where insurance covers the high healthcare costs and pays the service provider directly, it’s in generators (doctors and hospitals) interest to maintain records in order. Then recently, Obamacare in USA both incentivised adoption at the beginning and penalised non-compliance later resulting in fast digitisation in Healthcare. That prescriptions are managed by a handful of third parties is also another big enabling factor.

Some home-health (especially fitness) device manufacturers have had limited success in terms of generating health information from users. Most of it has to do with real-time gathering of data, automation and gamification.  But the data generated through these means is too trivial to be of use to impact healthcare in a significant way.

To summarise, digitising health care in India still remains a hard nut to crack under the existing circumstances – the size and complexity is just a small aspect, there are bigger behavioural and regulatory problems at play. Learnings from NHS and Obamacare show that a heavy external push from the government is required for entrepreneurs to focus on this area and succeed.

By,

Ravindra Ramavath, with inputs from Arun Sahlam (Cofounder – HealthKonnect; Previous: Cofounder & CTO – CarWale)

October 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

Jio – An Audacious Gamble or Bold Game-Changer ?

Our last post mentioned, “roll out of 4G LTE and imminent data price wars” in anticipation of the Reliance Jio launch. And, a couple of days before we posted the infographic, Jio opened up their ‘freedom offer’, which was restricted earlier, to everyone ; it’s now probably becoming the ‘welcome offer’.


jioplansMy interest in Jio was piqued the moment I saw tweets with screenshots, especially this one, of the data plan from ANI_News, which was live tweeting the AGM.  The reason was my current mobile plan. I use a Rs. 1,299* plan that my current mobile operator offers (with a discount of Rs.783, they call it a 3G promo offer) for which I get, “299 minutes of free talk time”, “200  free local sms” and “1GB data” on their 3G network. My primary reason for choosing this plan was the data pack. I calculated that I needed about 1 GB of mobile data for on-the-go occasions and for everything else, there was my unlimited home wi-fi of which I consume about 6-8 GB of data on my phone every month. Now, with the Rs.499-M plan of Jio, which is less than half of my current mobile plan, I can get 4x (and more) the data at 10x speeds. What’s more, I can do away with my home wi-fi connection! The only thing that stopped me from going in for a Jio connection earlier was that my mobile phone (Oneplus One, running CyanogenMod) wasn’t a device originally listed in their device FAQ.

jiolaunchThe moment the phone compatibility issue was taken care of with the Jio4g voice app, I was in the queue for a Jio SIM. The Aadhaar card based activation was a breeze and I had the Jio SIM about 30 minutes later – most of which were spent standing in the queue. Barring the face-to-face interaction with the Jio representative at the store, experience with Jio at other touchpoints hasn’t been satisfactory. I couldn’t get through to the Jio tollfree number easily to enquire about the compatibility of my phone on their network. When I did, I had to wait about 20 minutes and then talk to an untrained customer care associate who asked me what the, “brand name and model was for a Oneplus One” (even the rep at the store wasn’t that clear, all he said was, “if you’ve got an offer code on MyJio app, the phone works”).  Activation took about 3 days since the day I got the SIM, and I got to know about it only after another call to the tollfree number because the activation SMS didn’t reach me.

Having used the Jio network for almost a day now, the overall usage experience is nothing great to write home about. I couldn’t place any outgoing calls to numbers on other networks barring Jio ones and an MTNL landline. Calls from other networks, including MTNL, to a Jio number don’t go. While I could receive SMSes on the Jio number, the ones I sent out weren’t received on numbers on other networks. The much touted 4G data speed too wasn’t in sight. I was getting download speeds ranging between 60-500 kbps. There are also other minor niggles in the app which will hopefully be ironed out soon – the Jio4gvoice app is always on, draining the battery more than necessary and I found the 4g connection drops when I am on a wi-fi network.

While there is bound to be some confusion, delay and a few niggles with a new launch – especially one with such grand objectives , there are a few things that are a complete master stroke by Jio…

  1. Free welcome offer of 3 months (unlimited calls and internet):
    • Though they haven’t lived up to their promise of “5 minute walk-out-working” Aadhar based signup, people are willing to wait days for activation because everything is free as of now
    • It allows Jio to stress test their network with a lower number of users at higher usage before they ask more people to pay-up for less usage in about 3 months
    • If these users are delighted with the network (in all likelihood they’ll be, at least with the data network), the word of mouth they’ll generate is going to a huge marketing push
  2. Not porting numbers right now:
    • Though the FAQs say you can port, they aren’t doing it right now (or rather the Jio rep I met in the store told me so). Imagine the additional headache of training their entire team to answer additional porting questions from customers. Coordinating porting with other telecoms and then intimating date and time of porting to new customers. Worst still, service disruptions during the porting process lasting hours making thousands (or lakhs) of customers angry
    • I suspect, this is also probably forcing customers that are unwilling to let go of a number they’ve had for ages, to use Jio as a second network more for data than voice (and they have an “activate data only” option as well).
      • As an offshoot, in the near term, demand for low cost dual sim 4G phones is probably going to hit the roof
    • With the data from those using voice on Jio, Reliance can negotiate better with incumbents for more interoperation points and lower charges. Thereby providing better voice experience by the time they launch paid services in January 2017. (Read more about it here: “Jio supporting their demand for PoIs for 22 million users quoting 50 million call failures”, “TRAI set to reject higher interconnection charges from telcos”)
    • The other thing which I suspect is going to happen is that while Reliance Jio has full visibility of which networks people are coming from or going to switch from (thanks to the data they are collecting during the signup), the telecom operators are in the blind as to how many of their existing users are trying out Jio. Come 1st January, the blindsided operators, might lose millions of subscribers at one go.
  3. Possibly converting a whole segment of feature phone / pre-paid users to smartphone users :
    • This is just a hypothesis based on observations of those in queues at a few Jio stores. If the free voice calls and free SMS lures enough of those using features phones on pre-paid cards towards smartphones, and if they experiment with downloading music and video and are satisfied with the experience, and if a sufficient number continue on the Jio network after Jan 1st, then smartphone usage would have penetrated a whole new segment. Three big Ifs, I recognise, but the combination has the potential to be a game-changer.
    • Of course, a large chunk of these users may turn out to be shrewder / more value-conscious than we give them credit for and may stop consuming data for entertainment once they have to pay for it. They might yet continue with Jio for voice calls, in which case though Jio would have succeeded in switching users from competing networks, the task of changing their usage behaviour and increasing ARPUs would still remain. Worst case, if the voice connectivity on Jio networks is poor (as it is currently) , they may switch back to their old networks and it’ll be a bet gone horribly wrong – the mother of all promotional offers, one that induced a lot of free trial, but generated little conversion or loyalty.
  4. Having to install MyJio + Jio4gvoice apps to generate offer code prior to getting a SIM:
    • Even before Jio gives out the SIM, they have access to pretty much everything on a prospect’s phone – read and modify contacts, call log, calendar, sms, location – via this placeholder of an app called MyJio. Add Jio4gvioce, they can have everything else from your phone – identity (personal and device), camera, media (photos and everything else on your phone and sd card), microphone. Not many users in India are educated or knowledgeable about how much data an app can access and transmit.

Anyway, returning to our last post…

  • Price wars are imminent: Airtel has already cut prices. BSNL announced that it will match Reliance “tariff-by-tariff”. Vodafone and Idea are yet to announce their plans.
  • Mobile data consumption is set to explode: In the previous post, we mentioned that there are, “33.9 Million mobile users (~11% of total mobile internet users) who consume over 2 gigabytes of data per month”. Now, Reliance Jio claims, ‘the average monthly data consumption per user has exceeded 26 GB’ in April-June quarter and they had, ‘over 1.5 million test users’ even before the test launch.  That’s a 13x jump in average data consumption by a smart phone user! That might be the best case of course, but considering that one gets 4GB of daytime data and unlimited night time data over mobile networks and 8 GB over Jio public wi-fi hotspots, even in the Rs. 299 (pre-paid) and Rs.499 (post-paid) plans, these averages aren’t going to hold for long.  This might be the stimulus the telecom industry needs during a time when the average data ARPUs are falling  ( as data prices have largely remained constant while average ARPUs have been falling, my hypothesis is that new users being added aren’t consuming as much data).
  • Collateral damage – voice calls: There has been much acrimony already between Reliance and other operators. Reliance Jio has accused incumbent players like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone of not releasing sufficient inter-connection ports to terminate a voice call in another network (news report 1, 2). I think it’s a moot point because, eventually, people using Reliance Jio (or other networks matching Jio’s data prices) are going to be doing a lot more of VoIP and video calls.  Operators are not going to choke on incoming voice as they are currently claiming, they are going to choke on incoming data.
  • Collateral damage – entertainment apps: The SOP 5 with the Jio SIM is, “Install Jio Apps” and the MyJio app installs a Chat, Cinema, TV, Music, Magazine, News, Storage/Drive, Money, Fashion app. My hypothesis is all the lesser used or upcoming or limited content or me-too apps in these domains are going to really find it difficult to survive. I also think DTH operators are going to suffer a bit. I definitely don’t find it worthwhile to pay for a big bundled pack every month when I view only 1-2 hours of TV a week. If I can access those few shows online, I am definitely going to cast them on my TV and disconnect my DTH.
  • Data services as the imagery drivers: We also mentioned, “Indians are still more concerned about voice quality than data services” and that, “among smart phone users elsewhere, data speed is considered to be the most important factor in determining both network performance and satisfaction with an operator”. India is going to catch-up to this paradigm soon. The provider who has better data network and app content is eventually going to win and Reliance Jio has already built a huge lead in it.

The last time, Reliance launched a mobile network, it brought the voice prices down. Hope they do it for data now. All in all, exciting times ahead both for users and watchers.

By,

Ravindra Ramavath

 

September 13, 2016 at 8:38 am 2 comments

Mobile Penetration, Mobile Data Speed and Consumption in India

In this blog post, we mentioned that India is the #2 market in terms of Internet users behind China. But did you know that India was the #2 telecommunications market in terms of subscribers since 2008?

The telecom revolution stated in India on July 31st 1995 with a mobile call between the then WB chief minister, Jyoti Basu, and Union communications minister, Sukh Ram.  Since then, mobile phones have permeated everywhere in India. There are 1,036 million telecom subscribers, 97% of these being mobile subscribers. The urban mobile teledensity is a mind boggling 147, 3x higher than rural at 49 (overall mobile teledensity of 79.2).

With such high penetration numbers, every telecom operator is now turning towards data to increase revenues. The growing smartphone penetration in India, driven by cheap handsets is expected to fuel this. In 2016, smart phone shipments are expected to overtake that of feature phones with analysts pointing out factors that can drive the average price of a smartphone further down from Rs.10,700/- in 2015.

While users in India are still more concerned about voice quality than data services (and the leading telecom operator has tried to take the high ground on this aspect with the open network campaign), among smart phone users elsewhere, data speed is considered to be the most important factor in determining both network performance and satisfaction with an operator.

 

mobile

 

[Here’s a quick look at the data in the infographic above (2015 data) :

  • 1,010.9 million wireless telecom subscribers
  • 311.7 million wireless internet subscribers
    • 60% of these connections are on GPRS/Edge networks
    • 36% on 3G technologies such as HSPA/WCDMA
    • & only 0.8% of connections are on 4g networks technologies such as EVDO/CDMA/LTE
  • The average mobile connection speed was 1,016 kbps with…
    • … the average 2G speed at 77 kbps
    • … the average 3G speed at 1,932 kbps and
    • … the average 4G speed at 9,415 kbps
  • The average mobile-connected end-user device generated 149 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
    • Average non-smartphone generated 49 megabytes of mobile data traffic
    • Average smartphone generated 430 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
      • 9x more mobile data traffic per month than a basic handset
      • Within this, the average 4G smartphone generated 1,256 MB of traffic per month in 2015, compared to 430 MB for non-4G smartphones.
    • Average tablet generated 1,671 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
      • 34x more mobile data traffic per month than a basic handset
  • There are an estimated 239 million mobile connected smartphones, 23.9% of device connections, and they generated 69.1% of total mobile traffic
    • Incidentally, India has overtaken Japan to become the world’s third largest smartphone market
  • There are 3.8 million tablets, 0.4% of device connections generating 4.2% of total mobile traffic
  • In India, mobile video traffic is estimated to grow 20.8-fold from 2015 to 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 83%.
  • Currently, web and other data applications generate about 48% of mobile data traffic, Video generates 40% , streaming audio generates 10% and file-sharing the balace 2% of India’s mobile data traffic
  • Currently web browsing, emailing and social networking are the top three internet activities on smartphones ]

 

What these numbers tell you is that Indians are embracing the internet on the mobile, not PC. And this mobile Internet is currently work and social networking related. Going forward it will be increasingly video.

However, the quantum of consumption is still low. For example, the 430 MB consumed at an average speed of 2.643 kbps by an average smartphone on an average mobile connection is good enough to stream about half a movie in SD quality from Netflix. And, if you are going to use a social network like Facebook exclusively, it will last you about 4-5 hours (1 -2 MB per minute). These are of course averages. There is always the pareto principle, 33.9 Million mobile users (~11% of total mobile internet users) consume over 2 gigabytes of data per month. And it is from survey of these users, that you hear the hype about mobiles and apps.

The next few years are going to be exciting in this space, launch of multiple high spec smartphones at Rs.10,000 price points, roll out of 4G LTE (and imminent data price wars) and better last mile connectivity  will further fuel mobile data consumption.

{The Cisco, Ericsson, CMI and TRAI reports are sources for this article and infographic, and can be accessed at the links given.}

  • Ravindra Ramavath

September 8, 2016 at 3:05 pm 1 comment

India – Internet Statistics

India-Internet

Since we’ve received some questions after the last two posts, we felt that it was time to share some more data on this topic. As this info-graphic is quite detailed, we may write a post or two on some of the implications of the numbers in this one , but you’ll have to wait a week or two to read those.

  • Ravindra Ramavath

 

September 9, 2014 at 5:52 am 1 comment

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