‘The Father of the Ring Tone’ rings an upbeat note

Ralph Simon is widely recognized as one of the founders of the modern global mobile entertainment and content industry. He has been a prominent mobile visionary, trailblazer and innovator for the past decade, helping in the growth of the world-wide mobile/wireless content and entertainment industries, and playing a central role in helping an international array of companies, start-ups, technologists and creative innovators grow their mobile applicability in the established and fast-developing international markets. In 1998, Ralph predicted that, “Mobile phones would become the indispensable voice/social networking and music companions for consumers and their increasing mobile lifestyles.” Founder of Mobilium Global, he worked on convincing United States’ music publishers to grant the very first ring tone rights. This resulted in him being dubbed as “The Father of the Ring Tone”. In an exclusive interview with Abhijit Ganguly he shares his thoughts on the sidelines of INFOCOM 2013.

Why do you think the mobile entertainment business has exploded so dramatically in recent years?

Everybody is becoming a screenager.  People want to experience and then share their special moments or their special entertainment moments on their mobile phone. For the last eight to nine years, I have been involved with bollywoodhungama.com, and I have seen the ways in which Bollywood has been using mobile phones to promote their movies as well as well-known Bollywood actors and actresses using it to extend their voice. The video game business is bigger than the movie business. So, the gamification of entertainment has also been another big driver. The big problem in India happened about nine months ago when the government overnight changed the regulations about content. All telecoms and entertainment companies went through a very bad patch. It’s just the other day that new regulations for telecoms were announced. So we are hoping in India this will be a positive move for the mobile content people. We see a lot more use of entertainment in mobile health. Gamification and animation and medical data used collectively have become an important business case. Another area where the mobile is becoming an interestingly important tool for India and the future of India (read: Indian business and innovation) is the area of education. The key is creativity. Creativity  in   business, creativity  in  coding, creativity in products; the Ideation of an idea.

Do you think the emerging market countries have an edge when it comes to mobile entertainment?

One of the interesting things we have seen over the last two to three years is that there have been high-impact developments in emerging markets. The Finnish company Rovio Entertainment Limited that created Angry Birds is a good example. From a small country of 5.3 million population (half the population of Kolkata), and out of that population, Angry Birds created a whole  franchise. The  third  biggest game company in the world is in Turkey! There is a lot that emerging countries are coming up with, interesting ideas and ideations, which have a big impact on bigger countries. Mobile money and the mobile money platform were started eight years ago in Kenya. The Shell, a big credit card company, spent 110 million dollars buying an African company and using their mobile payment platform and using it to do everything related to mobile money in Latin America.

How do you see the growth of mobile internet in India?

Many more people are using the mobile internet than fixed line internet in India. There  is about 100 million people using fixed line internet whereas about 450-500 million people use the mobile internet. Companies like Micromax enable low cost Smartphones, and there is huge demand among Indian mobile users for smarter and better phones.

So companies like Samsung, Wallway, Micromax, are all seeing enormous growth. People  reckon the next few months will see 30-35% growth in Smartphones. Another big thing in India is the huge market for pre-owned Smartphone’s (second hand Smartphones). Many people in rural areas can’t afford to buy new ones. The more Smartphone penetration there will be, the more will be internet penetration.

What are the threat areas?

The biggest threat is that there is not enough innovation in India. Another  huge  threat  is  that  young companies  unfortunately  have  to  struggle  to  get  their funding even though there are venture capitalists in India. Innovators are trying to find areas that are not catered  for. For instance, some young guys from Bangalore have discovered an incredible app for urine analysis. It gives high quality laboratory analysis of urine. It is getting a lot of attention in the US since the process is 85% cheaper than it is there and the analysis is also of an amazing standard. I think Zamata will be huge global success.

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