High Tech to Compensate for Lack of Market Understanding?

Airtel recently introduced its "voice SMS" facility in Karnataka. The motivation? Clarifies Venkatesh V, CEO, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Karnataka:
Airtel Voice SMS lends to the freedom of expression, a whole new dimension as it cuts across language and knowledge barriers. This would go a long way in making it a powerful tool of expression for users, who are not as well versed with the English alphabet. We are confident that this service will make a positive difference to the way our customers engage with near and dear ones on the mobile.
While the service is a welcome move and definitely fills a gap, who said that those "who are well versed with the English alphabet" prefer to use English SMS instead of Kannada SMS in Karnataka? Did anybody do a market survey on this? Or was it taken for granted that anybody who is savvy enough to own a mobile phone will prefer English by default (just like the FM stations took it for granted that anyone listening to music in Bengaluru prefers Hindi music to Kannada music)? If only Airtel had asked itself this question, instead of moving away from text as an interface, it could have pressurized the Nokias, the LGs, the Samsungs of the world to come up with decent (not buggy, not incompatible) Kannada user interfaces ans SMS technology.

There's still a vibrant market for Kannada SMS (the text version) in both urban and rural areas. Only, these companies are not realizing this basic fact because of the guesses of a few gone wrong. We told the FM companies that, and we're telling the phone companies now: do some decent market research. High tech won't replace lack of understanding of the market.


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