Mexican giant explains why its 'old school' D2C services are marching across the planet.
Reports of the death of what used to be known as D2C have been greatly exaggerated. The personalisation market is a relic of the feature phone days, and in Europe and the US, it's all about apps and feature phones now.
But why be myopic? The world isn't Europe and North America. Which is why smart companies in emerging markets are still thriving in this challenging but rewarding space.
None more so than Mexico's Binbit.
Earlier this year, the firm confirmed 3bn premium SMS messages sent, with one billion of them sent in the previous seven months.
Binbit offers a range of mobile consumables, some of which is original, some of which comes from major licensors such as EMI Music, Universal Music and Associated Press.
In the summer it bought a permanent office in Bogota, Colombia; opened a new one in Hong Kong, and plans expansion into 11 new countries by mid 2012 including Kenya, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
That programme received a boost when Binbit swooped for Indonesian SMS provider Forest Media International in August.
We asked Antoni Muntaner, chairman at The Binbit Group, about the past, present and future of Mexico's biggest mobile entity...
What's the quick statistical overview of Binbit today?
We have 20m subscribers worldwide. There were 10m at the end of 2010, so you can see how fast we're growing. We have a 90,000 strong catalogue of MP3s, ringtones, games, apps, wallpapers, alerts and screensavers. Subscriptions cost from 10c to 25c a day.
Why have you been so successful in what is a declining market elsewhere in the world?
A lot of it is down to the way we market to end users. D2C is all about how you reach consumers, and we have worked hard across TV, print and radio. It's expensive. We can display around 40,000 TV spots a month. And 100 of our 300 staff work in marketing. Last year we started to do much more online too, which has been very effective for us.
A lot of D2C companies, especially European ones like Neomobile and Buongiorno, have moved into the corporate space, helping brands and operators sell content. B2B2C as it's called. Does this interest you?
Yes it does, especially as the costs are lower. It's not really a focus for us, though. Not now. Things are going well for us - perhaps better than they are for D2C companies in Europe.
Why did you buy Forest?
Asia is such an important region for any mobile content company. We had already moved into Asia when we bought Acme Games two years ago, but Forest was a great opportunity, which we had to go for.
What does it specifically bring to Binbit?
Forest's main business is providing text-based interactive services for TV in Indonesia. That's not really an area we're looking to develop. We tried it in the past but it didn't really work for us. We don't have the expertise there. So now we're focused on D2C and we believe Forrest's technology can be applied to things like mass promotions. Most users still have feature phones in these regions so you have to have the right tools to reach them.
So, how much of your billing for example is by reverse billed SMS?
It's still 95 per cent. Yes, there is some WAP billing, but not much. The operators in the countries we work in have billing systems that can't support direct billing so we couldn't change if we wanted to. That said we still offer some flexibility, with subscriptions for all you can eat and so on.
Are you surprised at your success?
We've worked hard for it. But, yes, when you think it's just six years ago that we were in a tiny office two metres by two metres trying to set up a content store for Telcel. It is pretty amazing.