Mobilising email

Paul Roberts, co-founder, Forgetmenot Software, tells CommsMEA how his company plans to bring mobile email, instant messaging and even access to social networking sites to the masses in developing markets.

Tags: 2GForgetMeNot SoftwareMessagingUnited Arab Emirates
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Mobilising email
By  Roger Field Published  October 27, 2009 Communications Middle East & Africa Logo

Tell me about Fogetmenot Software. How was the company founded?

We originally had an idea of an appointment reminder service to allow doctors, dentists and other professionals to automatically send out reminders to their customers when they have an appointment coming up.

Part way through development we realised that this could be used for so much more and not just sending simple reminders but also the ability to link in to email and even instant messaging, using the SMS channel. So we abandoned the reminder service and focused on expanding the capability of the software that was under development.

From these simple beginnings, our focus changed somewhat radically to how to get email, instant messaging and other channels on basic handsets.

How do you view instant messaging? Is this a key differentiator for Forgetmenot Software?

We have seen a huge upsurge in instant messaging. We have seen a change in attitude from users and the business world, and carriers as well in that it isn't just for 13 year-olds. It is a viable, commercially robust mechanism to communicate. RIM established the business model for email, the demand is there, but we are seeing a big upsurge in demand for instant messaging, so we are harnessing that channel as well as part of our platform.

How is the company growing? Is your software deployed with many carriers?

We are working actively with a number of carriers in Africa. We have got two actual deployments in place, and we have about eight pilots under way in other regions of Africa too. We are working with their marketing teams now and finalising their pitch to the end users.

It is interesting, this recession has been a bonus for us because there has been a huge pent-up demand for two-way email and two-way instant messaging on the mobile phone and it is not just limited to people who have got the financial resources to afford a BlackBerry or a smartphone.

We are finding that the carriers are under a lot of cost pressure to deliver these types of services to all of their customers, not just the ones who have can afford it, so they are actively looking at how they can squeeze more revenues and provide more services to their customers without having to spend a fortune upgrading infrastructure. We are finding that we fit that position perfectly for them because we can deploy all of these systems to them using their existing phones and without them having to incur a huge amount of infrastructure cost. Carriers can get going with us within a couple of weeks in terms of implementation.

Africa has been a big focus up until now and it continues to be a focus but we have identified the Middle East and South East Asia as two major areas of value to us. We are progressing on a number of fronts in South East Asia and we are gearing up to have a heavier presence in the Middle East. We want to be anywhere where you have a well educated population that may have some financial constraints.

Does your software allow 2G devices to access social networking sites? Does the software also have other applications?

We are branching out into the social networking area. We are in the beta phase of a service that we are providing using our platform that allows users with entry-level phones to be able to receive, update, post messages to their wall or their profile on Facebook.

What we have is not just a communication tool. IM and email is the backbone of it, but it is a platform upon which other services can be built, including the social networking.

We are also doing some work in the southern part of the south east of Africa right now. We are looking to deploy information-based services for an operator that is closely linked to the government, for example for disease tracking, education, voter registration tracking, so our software is not just about email and instant messaging, but also about access to information.

It is an important differentiator for us because we allow end users who may never have access to the internet or a PC to have access to that information which is normally resident on the internet. It crosses this barrier, this hurdle of having access to information that is on the internet but not having the device capable. We are crossing that divide.

Our product also has applications in customer relationship management. For example, there are a lot of companies that are fighting among themselves to provide the transaction side of mobile banking. We have found that our software has applications for services such as mobile banking, for example by sending alerts that a transaction has just taken place, account summaries that have to go out. We are allowing internet based CRM aspects to be harnessed by anyone who has a mobile phone. We allow the institution to keep that contact and relationship going with their end customers.

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