Taking its rural thrust forward, Nokia today formally launched Life Tools, an information service that would deliver agriculture-related news, commodity market prices, weather conditions and other related information to the farming communities and small towns in India.
Nokia has signed a memorandum of understanding with Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB) to obtain the latter's expertise in commodity pricing through its network of 291 local mandis (marketyards).
MSAMB will also provide news and alerts on its various schemes through this channel.
The service will be first rolled out in Maharashtra in association with MSAMB. The commercial launch comes close on the heels of a pilot study which concluded in April 2009 in Maharashtra in association with Reuters Market Light, an SMS crop service.
Unveiling the service at a press conference held in Mumbai, D Shivkumar, managing director, Nokia India, said, ''Nokia Life Tools was a result of the entire ecosystem coming together and is ideally placed to usher in an information revolution impacting the daily lives of people.''
Speaking at the occasion, Ashok Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra, said that the service held ''tremendous potential to improve lives and the livelihood of farmers and sub-urban consumers in Maharashtra.''
While mobile penetration is highest in urban centres in India, the small town and rural population too has become the focus of mobile service providers. With distant markets and uncertain weather conditions, mobile services are aiming to bridge these information gaps. Nokia estimates that India will have 500 million mobile phone users by the end of 2010. (See: India to have half a billion mobile phone users by 2010, says Nokia)
Nokia is also working on tapping the rural population in the fields of microfinance, marketing and sales. (See: Nokia eyes 3G, rural market with new phone models)
Life Tools service at a glance
Life Tools offers three primary services - agriculture, education, and entertainment. The complete suite is currently available on the newly launched Nokia 2323 classic and Nokia 2330 classic handsets, and is hosted by OnMobile in India.
The agriculture service from Life Tools. provides information on seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, market prices and weather forecasts. The service comes in two plans. The basic plan comes for Rs30 per month and offers daily weather updates, agriculture related news, advice, and tips.
The premium plan costs Rs60 per month and offers updated market prices for three subscriber chosen crops, along with other information.
The content in Life Tools' education service includes three features - learning English modules at various prerparatory levels, exam preparation tips for ICSE, CBSE and state board level exams, with exam results, career tips, and general knowledge. Each of these feature services are priced at Rs30 per month. This content will be delivered in association with Pearson Education (India).
Entertainment service: Initially, this includes daily astrological forecasts, news, jokes, cricket, and ringtones. The content is aggregated and delivered by OnMobile. This service would cost Rs30 per month.
Nokia has collaborated with various partners in the Indian government and private sector to deliver content available on Life Tools. The private sector partners include Syngenta, Madison Research, Skymet, Idea Cellular, Pearson Education (India) and OnMobile Global.
The service uses icons and graphical interface with two language support. SMS is used to deliver critical content and removes the need for a GPRS connection.
After Maharashtra, Nokia plans to expand the Life Tools service to other states in India and to selected countries in Asia and Africa.
According to Nokia officials, about 150 million customers would be added to the customer base in the next two years, of which a large number would come from rural India.