On October 27, 2010 at the Westin Hotel in Gulshan, Nokia and The Daily Star launched the first local news widget in the South East Asia Pacific region. Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher, The Daily Star, Prem Chand, General Manager, Nokia Emerging Asia, attended the event and interacted with the media people and talked about various aspects of the widget. I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with Mr. Prem Chand. Here is the excerpt of the interview:
SAB: Why Nokia chose to collaborate with an English newspaper? Majority of the Bangladeshi people in Bangladesh speak Bangla and number of English language speakers is very small.
Prem Chand: Well as I have already mentioned in my introductory speech that this news widget is the first of its kind in South East Asian region. So, you can see that we are venturing into a new area of business. There are multiple phases. Of course, we do believe in Bangla language and we have plans to introduce Bangla news service but this is the first phase of our project and we focused on smartphone users of Bangladesh. The number of smartphone consumers is small in Bangladesh and our research revealed that these users prefer English over Bangla. Obviously, they speak Bangla but they like to be seen to be English speaking and English news is relevant to them and Daily Star, certainly we felt, was the right publication for us to use in terms of the circulation and in terms of a brand. So it makes a lot of sense.
In the second phase, Nokia will start in the next two months, we are going to introduce this widget at the mass level, on more affordable handsets, which we refer as Series 40 handsets.
There are some major issues that need to be worked out to roll out this news service in mass. For example, we have to consider the data plan because users will download the news via a cellular network. Affordability is another big issue. So we need to work through all that because it is one thing to make these things available to people but you need to make sure that they can afford this service and do not end up paying significant amount of their disposable income in accessing that.
SAB: You talked about the local developers’ community. So have your company worked out any policy on how to pay the local developers for their applications?
Prem Chand: Yes, certainly, I think the developers’ community is very important for us. One thing that we have done in September 2009 we arranged a widget competition where we brought together some of the major software developers of Bangladesh and we provided them some training on developing widgets as well as identifying the opportunities in developing mobile applications. We then chose two of the best widgets and the developers then participated in a regional meeting.
Forum Nokia is the organization that is working on app development for Nokia and also looks after developing the community. It has been in assistance for about ten years. I think the key in working with developers is to ensure that they get remunerated for their efforts. We have devised few business models. For instance, the developers can get a one time upfront fee for developing an application. For instance, the Daily Star widget is free and the developers had been paid a one time upfront fee.
The other business model is revenue sharing. When we move towards applications where consumers are required to purchase, we will have a revenue sharing market. Let’s say that we put an application in our Ovi Store which costs € 3. A percentage of that price would go to the developers each time a buyer downloads the application. Now, the challenge we are facing in Bangladesh is that you do not have an online payment system. At the moment, we are working with the government to overcome this problem. A lot of the regulatory framework has not been upgraded. The E-commerce, M-commerce, regulations needs to be updated and then of course the other issue is the exchange-control regulations. We could easily, for instance, put on application in the Nokia Ovi store which Bangladeshis can purchase but the problem is they can not use credit card to purchase online. So, we need to work through all that. Get the regulatory frame work right and then we will work towards having online purchases and then a percentage of the revenue can go to the developers.
SAB: My last question is, the Ovi store is in English language. Does Nokia have any plan to introduce a Bangla language interface in Ovi store to cater Bangladeshi consumers?
Prem Chand: Well, this is a very good suggestion and I will keep that in mind. Bengali is not only limited to Bangladesh but people of West Bengal also speaks the same language. It is a huge opportunity no doubt. You know that we developed Bangla language keyboard for our mobile devices. You see, the Nokia Ovi store also supports other languages but it all depends on the user base. If there is a significant amount of download from Bangladesh and other Bengali language speaking regions then we would build a Bangla language interface for Nokia Ovi app store. It is a “Chicken and egg” situation in some way because if you have a Bangla language user interface then the Ovi store would become more popular in Bangladesh and more people would visit our store to download apps but first and foremost, we need to have a sizable number of applications that will be relevant to Bangladeshi people. So if we can have a large number of applications for Bangladeshi users and if there are significant amount of hits from Bangladesh in our sites then we will definitely look into this matter.
SAB: Even if you consider the people of Dhaka city and all other major cities of Bangladesh then it is a big market for your company and you can earn lots of revenues from this market.
Prem Chand: Definitely, Bangladesh has huge potential for mobile application. This is a great start for us. We have first launched the Daily Star widget which we would roll out the widget in mass in the next two months. Then we would go for introducing Bangla language newspaper widget and if that becomes successful then we will have a Bangla language interface in our Ovi app store.
SAB: Have you talked with any Bangla language newspaper regarding developing Bangla news widget?
Prem Chand: No, we are not talking with any Bangla newspaper. We need to be focused right now. It is of no use to go and talk with tens and millions of people about different opportunities. This is a new field. You learn as you go. So, the first phase, The Daily Star is our partner and we are going to work with them and learn from that and look at different opportunities and the number of downloads. We will then move on to Bangla newspaper. Certainly, this makes lots of sense but first we have to see how the Daily Star widget does in Bangladesh.