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Sri Lankan low income customers can use mobiles more for business: study
09 Mar, 2009 16:12:57
By Riyad Riffai
Mar 09, 2009 (LBO) - Sri Lankans low income customers of mobile communications, used phones least for business related activities in the region, potentially opening up a new marketing opportunity for celcos, a new study has found.
The so-called bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) mobile customers in Bangladesh used phones most for business, financial or work related activities a new study by the policy think tank, LirneAsia has found.

"Sri Lanka is at the lowest end where only 21 percent people said they used the phone daily for business related transactions" said Harsha de Silva, lead economist of LIRNEasia said.

"Whereas in case of Bangladesh where we heard so about phones and using phones as ways of getting out of poverty. And micro finance entrepreneur use was very high, whereas in Sri Lanka it was very low."

The LIRNEAsia mobile survey shows that 72 percent of BOP customers in Bangladesh use mobile phones daily for business activities, the highest in South Asia.

In India it was 42 percent and in Pakistan it was 31. In East Asia Philippines BOP customers who used mobiles regularly for business was 49 percent and in Thailand it was 32 percent.

In Sri Lanka the household income of customers that used mobiles phones for business was also higher at 183 US dollars a month against 92 US dollars for those who did not.

"People who use phones for such activities have a higher income and people who don't have a lower income," said De Silva.

"So it's fairly clear, people who use it seemed to be benefiting and people who don't seem not to be benefiting. I'm not saying there is a causality. But I'm saying there is a correlation between the two."

Only 14 percent of the Bangaladeshi BOP households never used used mobile phones for any business related communications.

. Most Sri Lankan users also saw the benefit of saving transport costs, but did not perceive benefits for using phones for business.

"This probably presents an opportunity for marketing phones for business uses," says LirneAsia executive director Rohan Samarajiva.

"In Sri Lanka most advertisements are directed at keeping in touch with people and family members."

As much as 70 percent of Sri Lanka BOP households surveyed said they never used fixed lines for business purposes.

In mobiles 50 percent of BOP households in Sri Lanka said they never used mobiles for any business related communications.

BOP telecom users in Sri Lanka saw the largest perceived benefits for emergency communications and relationship maintenance.

Bangladesh was the most optimistic on livelihood related benefits that can be derived from mobile phones ranging from directly selling calls to third users to finding jobs and market prices,

Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs utilized the micro finance made available from the Grameen Bank to setup mobile communications kiosks at rural villages that the public can use to make calls.

This was especially beneficial for those who could not afford a mobile phone, but could take a relatively cheap phone call and save money on transport costs.

The study found that the disparity between urban and rural Sri Lanka was almost not existent.

Among urban BOP users, 54 percent said they did not use mobiles for business communications while 50 percent of rural house holds surveyed also said they did not use mobiles for business purposes.

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