Micromax – ‘Mad about Ads’ – Worth it?

I really love Micromax. I don’t own any of their phones, but the rate at which they churn out phones with all the latest features, catering to the segment who want to buy a sub Rs.10-15K phone, there could be no better choice than Micromax. I had written earlier about the economics of buying a sub Rs.10K-15K phone. Given that most phones become ancient/break in about 1-2 years, I don’t see a reason why people should plonk upwards of Rs.20K for a phone.

image Given that love, I was naturally very curious when Micromax started broadcasting the ‘Mad about Ads’ campaign (a sample here) for their newly launched ‘Canvas MAd A94’ phone. The premise is simple. You buy the phone, watch ads on it and get paid. The actual mechanics are a bit more complicated – around a pre-installed app (MAD app), a registration, getting paid through online recharge etc. – summary being, if you want to get free recharge for watching ads, then you need to buy the phone.

I had indicated way back in 2009 about the idea of exchanging ad viewership time for a free recharge/talk time. The concept is not new in implementation either. Tata DoCoMo through its GetEasyTalkTime (or GET) had a similar offer, where you would get free talktime of 1 minute for every advertisement you watched (you could choose when you could watch ads) through the GET app. [In the SMS space, there was Way2SMS which had 110 characters for you to sned, and 30 characters for the ad – with the SMS being free]

I am trying to understand Micromax’s angle here, but I am at a loss.

a) This definitely can’t be a strategy to sell more phones and more so to the lower income segment people (thesis: they might be the ones who would be interested in watching ads to earn money) – ad streaming requires a data plan (maybe a few ads are pre-loaded) and most people don’t have a data plan.

b) There is also no clarity on how many points you would get to watch a 30 second ad vis-a-vis points you would get to watch a 1 minute ad. Also no clarity around how many points would be equal to a Re.1 of talktime. GET app of Tata DoCoMo restricts only 5 minutes of free talk time per day (for every 15 sec ad watched). Micromax doesn’t seem to have any such restriction, which in turn would mean, the points to rupees conversion is going to be terribly low (maybe 1% like credit card rewards). So, my guess is 10 points per ad, which in turn would mean about 1 minute of free talk time for 10 ads (15 sec-30 secs) watched. So, technically, it would mean on average, 2.5 min of your time is worth 50/60 paise. [Most of this would be in-stream ads, in the sense that you can’t get out of watching the ad in the middle – the other side is the ‘in-display’ ad where you can click on ‘Skip Ad’, and the charges for the advertiser both types of ads are vastly different, the former being more expensive than the latter]

c) What percentage of the population is really interested in watching an ad or a series of ads to add to talktime? Through Tata DoCoMo and Way2SMS plans, Micromax would have had some idea of the conversion rate. At any rate, I don’t think anybody would buy this phone to watch Ads.

The only reason Micromax might be doing this is the marginal cost of incorporating an app in its phone is 0. The MAD app for now is only restricted Micromax MAD phone, but it would be naive to think that they won’t extend the app to all the Micromax phones. Maybe all phones would have this app pre-loaded from now on. Except for brand recall (through innovative ads)and loss-leader strategy, I really can’t pinpoint what Micromax is doing here.

Anyway, I don’t see much uptake in the MAD app – I am sure it is for a restricted time period and will have an upper cap very soon. Why are they burning so much money on advertising this MAD app is beyond me. The management of Micromax talks about improving the ecosystem through targeted advertising, but mobile advertising through this MAD app or otherwise was always targeted (topic for another day, but briefly, I can do a state, city and content wise segmentation to target my product/service). The only difference is that instead of the operator, a manufacturer has the app preloaded into the phone.

Experience in an Aeroplane ride

Planes have always fascinated me ever since I can remember. But this post is not about the mechanics of the plane. This is about the flight experience in general.

I didn’t get on a plane till 2007. But after that, I have flown quite a few national and international routes and carriers. Irrespective of the route/carrier, I always find three aspects of the flying experience fascinating – Takeoff, the In-flight experience and the Landing.

Takeoff: The most exciting, adrenaline-pumping part of the flying experience. Every time the plane starts taxing, meandering this way and that on multiple sub-runways, accelerating a few times and then slowing down, my heartbeat starts increasing disproportionately. Every time the plane makes a temporary stop, I always feel the plane reached the main runway and is about to take off. But it doesn’t. And the wait just keeps getting longer. The plane finally clears all hurdles and queues and ends up on the runway. It stops and the engine sound is down to the minimum, as if to announce to the world that it is about to take off. I grip my seat handles and wait with bated breath. The jet engines start revving and within a second, you are pulled along at 350kmph, blasting through the runway. I am amazed at how the physics work. I am always amazed at the pilot’s brilliant maneuver of taking off the plane, without the tail of the plane ever hitting the tarmac. After about 15 seconds after takeoff, the plane appears to stop temporarily. My breath stops, fearing the worst, every single time. And the pilot seems to say ‘Ha! Gotcha’ and accelerates again. My senses are back to normal. My breath is normal. My pulse becomes normal. And we are in the air.

This happens every single time. And every single time, this experience is exhilarating.

In-flight experience: I am not talking about the different entertainment or movie options on planes. It differs from carrier to carrier and I am in no mood for market research on plane’s movies and entertainment options. I am however referring to the in-flight experience when the airhostess comes with food/coffee/towels etc.

Let me explain through an example.

Let’s say you are sitting in Row 16, aisle seat on the right. The food tray (you can replace this tray with drinks/ice-cream/towels/coffee etc.) is dragged all the way from the pantry which is behind you to the first seat. And then you see the tray moving every so slowly from Row to Row along with the airhostess. Mind you, you don’t want to appear greedy for the tray that is coming along (and born in the 80s, for me, flying in planes is still considered ‘posh and up-market). So, you distract yourself – reading this magazine or that, flipping randomly through movie options, knowing every second that the food tray is coming along. And then it arrives at Row 15. You look along eagerly, but not greedily or in an off-handed fashion. The airhostess might ask your preferences anytime now. Row 15 is complete and the tray ambles to Row 16. This is your moment in the sun. You are sitting on the right aisle seat. She is going to ask you now.

But she doesn’t. She turns to seats on the left, asking their preferences. The Damocles’ sword continues to hang. Yet again, the wait of appear-posh-but-not-offhanded continues. She finally finishes the left seats and turns to the right. NOW then. But, she just ignores you like you never existed on that plane and asks the person sitting in the window seat. You start fuming within, but smile outwardly. Again, a good smile, not a creepy smile. She finally asks you about your meal preference, gives your tray and goes along robotically to Row 17. Mission Accomplished. All emotions subside. You no longer have to think of what the air hostess is thinking of you. Food/drink to be had. Blank the rest of the plane out.

This happens every single time. And every single time, this experience is embarrassing.

Landing: The scariest part of the flying experience. The seat belt sign is switched on, the airhostess commands everyone to put on their seat belts, move the seats to the upright position, close the trays, make Manmohan talk and smile at the co-passenger who has been farting all along the ride. I can hear the wheels barreling out, the landscape rapidly becomes visible and I realize the speed at which the plane is going when you have passed a 100 vehicles on the super fast highway going parallel to the runway within a few seconds. The airport is visible at a distance this second and the plane’s hitting the tarmac the next. First, the rear wheels touch the tarmac, giving you a trailer of the bumps that are yet to be experienced. At this moment, the plane is all wobbly, trying desperately to hold its ground. And then, the front wheel hits the runway and that’s when you know what a bump means. That moment is the shittiest, scariest part of flying the plane (and by the way, most plane crashes happen when the front wheel doesn’t touch the runway properly – there I scarred you for the rest of your life! :) ). Once the entire plane is on the tarmac, the brakes kick in and the plane slows down and you breathe a sigh of relief.

This happens every single time. And every single time, this experience is frightening.

There you have it – Exhilarating, Embarrassing and Frightening. Every single time. But every plane ride is memorable. And the sheer physics of it fascinate me.

I love planes. Always did.

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