Mobile LBS 101 for Startups

Mobile LBS is a very happening space, a lot of players are expecting it to become huge even in India. But still, plenty of companies and start-ups look confused about how to take the best advantage of this wave.

Mobile LBS is a very happening space, a lot of players are expecting it to become huge even in India. But still, plenty of companies and start-ups look confused about how to take the best advantage of this wave. So here are a few of my thoughts about the value chain and where the money may lie.

LBS Content

This is an area that needs years of work, investment, and patience to collect and organize data. The data in the case of LBS could be raw satellite imagery, Map data, or in the case of mobiles, mapping between different cell tower locations and lat, long or just point of interest (POI) data around different locations. This is obviously the basis of every LBS. It had a huge interest for the past 5 years resulting in interesting acquisitions like Nokia acquiring NavTeq. Closer to home, map data firms like MapMyIndia or SatNav attracted investments from Qualcomm and Sequoia respectively. This is not a technology-savvy area but still needs some acute business sense to monetize the content. Not to mention overcome the competition.

LBS Platform

Technology, technology technology. This is the area for geeks like us. This is about organizing the plain vanilla LBS data/content in API or services which applications like Google Maps or Foursquare can use. It involves developing mainly server but sometimes client middleware to bring all the raw content points together. It’s a B2B proposition and hence main buyers include network operators, handset manufacturers, and big media companies. We see some content companies moving into this area (like SatNav / Mapmyindia). But it’s still a big opportunity for technology startups to explore. If you want to be there, learn to schmooze with the big guys along with getting a kickass technical team.

LBS Applications

This is the most interesting area as far as the users are concerned. I have been an avid user of Google Maps on my mobile(it helps me find customers and VC offices ..:-)). But, maps and directions are older or some may say commodity use cases. Some of the more exciting concepts I have come across include Bus timing and Location via BTIS from map unity or FriendFinder from LiveVana or ChildLocators (many of them make it). Though none of the Indian application companies has really become “foursquare” yet, I really think a successful LBS app would unearth many many monetization possibilities in the Mobile VAS landscape in India. What’s more interesting, to create a kickass LBS app, you only need to connect to your users. Manufacturers, Operators, Content providers, LBS platform companies, Media companies everyone is hungry for new and cool LBS apps.

Can’t wait to see what happens in this game.

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