All about the mBillionth Award – With Mr. Osama Manzar, Chairman, mBillionth South Asia

mbillionFounded with a vision to recognize and honor excellence in mobile communications across South Asia, mBillionth is now in its third year. In this interview, Mr. Osama Manzar tells us about the inception and the journey.

What led you to get active on the idea of mBillionth Award?

mBillionth award basically came into our mind because we have been running manthan award for the last 9 years. About 3 years back we realized that the mobile has been really taking a serious impact on general mass of the country. And considering that we focus for the masses and see how digital tools can be empowering tools for the masses. We thought it is better that we focus exclusively on how mobile can change our life. It’s been fantastic and over the 3 years, we have a database of thousands of mobile innovations collected from all over south Asia including the lesser known forces like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan.

Osama Manzar

Osama Manzar

Why is it called mBillionth South Asia Award Ecosystem?

Because it’s not just an event of an award but an award platform which identifies best innovations and give them award to recognize them. But it is a full lifecycle of identifying the best practices, bring in them to a platform, taking them through the best of minds and experts as a jury system and then identifying the best from them and collectively bringing them at one platform where they can be recognize as a best innovation across 10 or 12 categories including health, business, livelihood, finance, m commerce and financial. If you come to mBillionth award it’s not only about applying as a nominations, but getting recognized, getting funding, getting support, getting mentorship, getting across hundreds of others possible partners and exchanging ideas and even multiplying your business prospects

What trends have you seen in the mobile sector?

There are both disappointing as well as encouraging points here. It’s extremely encouraging that how any individual, NGO or an organization and government on its own has been able to find innovative way to use mobile. Because it has reached to the masses to serve them either through the health services or through the financial inclusion services or through several other kind of services for example NREGA and all that. But what has been disappointing is that the biggest motivator of the mobile industry, are so called private sector and big mobile and VAS companies. I don’t find them that they are looking at mass market as how to reach there with the innovative solutions. I don’t know whether I should blame them or not, but there is something that our population need to serve them through the mobile and somehow these big people who could have done a much better job of reaching out to these population which they are not reaching out to them so far and still they are concentrating on VAS kind of applications and typical jingle based or IVR based and kind of applications, only targeting the metros of the country. I don’t see too much that they are doing. There is a huge market line there at a grassroots levels in the rural India which I feel that the corporate sector or the leading mobile companies should target because they may have a financial strength to invest in that area to come out with the killer applications.

What do you consider to be the USP of mBillionth Award?

An award is just a means to find out who are the best practitioners. It’s merely a way to find out and encourage the people who are not recognized otherwise. It’s an empowering initiative and that’s why we called it is an ecosystem. For example, mbillionth this one of the strongest feeder of the innovative ideas to the government organization on how they can use our application and service provider and mobile content creators who can serves the various mission note projects or various other projects of govt.

What are the future plans?

Well, the long term plan for mBillionth award is to consolidate this platform as a very strong corpus based funding and mentoring organization, where the focus is more towards empowering innovative ideas which can empower the local masses, local ideas, and local needs of the rural market. And the 2nd tier of this platform we like to create 1st the social entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs using mobile as a application to develop, to make a business out of it and reach out to the masses. So these are two things that we are trying and working out on a regular basis. The mobile for social good is already started with Vodafone foundation. We are trying to more consolidate on even without fund we can mentor or with fund how can we mentor and we become a corpus equity fund kind of thing, which basically invests in various ideas which creates social impact without compromising with the commercial returns. That’s our long-term plan. We have more than 100 best practices collected in the last three years in fact 1200 ideas. And we are trying to see how this entire ecosystem can use this 1200 ideas and reach to the larger numbers of entrepreneurs and larger number of people in rural areas using government as a platform and other NGOs as a platform and make sure that the mobile can become the tool for empowerment, for information poor society of this our poor country.

Find out more about the awards here