The Indian music industry is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Virgin Mobile, which launched here on March 2.

"It's still early to say what impact Virgin Mobile will have on mobile music here," comments Savio D'Souza, general secretary of Mumbai-based labels body the Indian Music Industry. "As and when they roll out their value-added services, we will see if there is anything unique compared to what is being offered by other players."

Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson gave proceedings some fanfare when he was lowered by wires down the outside of a 35-storey hotel in Mumbai to unveil the company's logo in midair.

The service offers handsets by Nokia, Samsung and Huawei Technologies retailing for $60-$120 that feature full-color displays, FM radio access and a one-touch key to connect to the "V Bytes" portal providing music, film clips, games and other content.

The service is being made available in 50 cities through leading Indian mobile operator Tata Teleservices, and is due to expand its coverage to more than 1,000 cities by December.

Mandar Thakur, GM of Mumbai-based content aggregator Soundbuzz India, says that while a new mobile-market player is always welcome, "I can't see what earth-shattering impact Virgin will have here. Compared to rivals, Tata's CDMA service has limited bandwidth, which could be a challenge for offering VAS content. In India, as of now, the Virgin brand has a niche appeal amongst upscale youth, but the real challenge is to tap the mass youth market as well."

India, which is the seventh territory in which Virgin has entered the mobile field, has just over 240 million mobile users, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). And with 8.7 million new subscribers a month, India is the world's fastest-growing mobile market, according to TRAI.

Virgin Mobile India deputy CEO Jamie Heywood said Virgin forecasts that in the next three years, there will be 50 million new mobile subscribers in India -- mainly under the age of 25 -- and that the territory's mobile-services market will grow to more than $8.75 billion. Heywood says Virgin hopes to capture more than 10% of that market.

"If you can't make it in India," said Branson, "you won't make it anywhere."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print