At the moment, the primary revenue opportunity for mobile operators in India is adding more subscribers for mobile data. Eventually, that segment will saturate, as it has in other markets such as Japan.
Before that happens, India’s mobile operators will have begun a shift to greater reliance on apps and services, something Reliance Jio already has adopted as part of its core strategy for Long Term Evolution.
NTT Docomo earns 15 percent of its revenues from non-traditional sources, the largest proportion of any telco worldwide, and largely earned from various “Smart Life” apps and services.
Revenues from Docomo Smart Life businesses, which provide consumers with advice, information, security, cloud storage and other lifestyle services, grew 22 percent to 421 billion yen (US$3.5 billion) in the year ending March 2015.
Those initiatives are important because Docomo has seen its revenue from telecom services decline every year since 2006, making Docomo a key test of how a mobile service provider can create brand new revenue streams to displace declining legacy revenues.
In part, that growth has been fueled by third party content providers on the “dmenu” portal.
Suppliers grew from 700 in March 2012 to 3,000 in March 2016.
Monthly users of dmarket grew to 20 million by March 2016, up from 1.5 million in March 2012.
Beyond dmarket, Docomo has also deployed other value added services including navigation, local information, NFC-based wallet and information services, credit card and carrier-billing-based payments, translation apps, health and wellness services, insurance, pet and child tracking. DOCOMO also provides an i-concierge service as well.
However one wished to describe the strategy–moving up the value chain, creating a platform or becoming an app enabler–Docomo is a pioneer for other mobile service providers also forced to explore growth strategies based on brand new services.