Operation Cacofonix - mobile classifieds

May 24, 2010  —

The third mobile phone based idea, code named Cacofonix centered around classifieds.

Operation Cacofonix - mobile classifieds

What really appealed to me about using mobile phone for classifieds is that the size of the classifieds is invariably around 160 characters.

##The Market A lot of companies like sulekha, and others have tried to take the classifieds market online. More recent to join and with deep pockets is Quickr. They have met reasonable success, but have not really been able to create a dent in the existing print classifieds market. Even the hugely popular service like craiglist in the west has only received moderate adoption here. It is but obvious (atleast to me) that any serious player in classifieds space will have to leverage the print market and take it to mobile phones.

##The Idea The basic idea is to take an existing print classified, and turn it in to a mobile SMS. With each classifieds that you see in Ad-mag for example, you will also see a 4 letter unique code for that advertisement. A reader texts “MBOX XYZW” to lets say 9243000111, and that classified lands up on their mobile phone.

A reader can now shortlist various classifieds that she is interested in by saving them on their mobile phone (Why? mobile phones have replaced your physical phone diary you used to store your friends number right?). No need to circle the advertisement or carry the paper along with you always.

Similarly the advertiser, now can hide their phone number by not displaying it in the printed advertisement. It comes only in the sms downloaded advertisement. Today advertisers have no choice but to provide their mobile phone number in the ad, which is a hunting ground for bulk sms and unsolicited calls providers.

##Revenue? Advertisers are still advertising in print, and hence are paying to get their advertisement printed. Wouldn’t they be willing to pay lets say Rs. 10/- more to make their advertisement ^mobile friendly^ and also hide their own mobile number in return?

##Exploring further If the first step, that is collaborating with the print media to educate the masses in using mobile phones to save the advertisement meets a reasonable success and people are comfortable using it on mobile phone, the next step would be to actually launch classifieds completely on mobile phone. An advertiser sends a message with all the details of their advertisement, and we index it based on category/location etc. When an interested person sends a SMS requesting for a specific advertisement, we search for the advertisement which best matches the request and present it to that person.

Monetization in this next step would be hugely challenging. Essentially people are using your service sitting at their home using only mobile phones. So they will have to use their mobile phones only to pay you for the service. Micropayments on mobile phone without involving the operator.. big challenge. I don’t think the market is ready for that yet.

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