Monday, March 9, 2009

Outsourcing product field trials in Web 2.0 world

I came across this news item about Citi being interested in having NFC field-trials in Bangalore, India to help prepare for commercial deployments in the US.

This is an interesting idea. I had heard of outsourcing call centers, development, back office operations... to Bangalore/India. Pharmaceutical companies have been outsourcing field trials of their drug testing to places like India. To Citi, outsourcing NFC field trials was an obvious step in trying to stretch the dollar in trying times.

Would this work though?

How much would a Bangalore merchant promote this new technology while he knows that product/service being tried out is not making its way to his store any time soon? Would the NFC reader be buried somewhere, with the [transient] checkout staff being ignorant of its existence/usage?

I heard that the local transit agency is being roped in for the trial. Makes sense, considering the pivotal role transit plays in the contactless ecosystem. However, would the local transit agency make the effort to actively participate when they know that they are just the lab rats.

The dynamic of India's mobile carriers are very different from that of the US, starting from low ARPUs, to high proportion of prepaid users... I heard that nearly 90% of India's mobile customers are prepaid users.

Would India's cash-based economy, culture... provide Citi the ability to extrapolate results? You get the drift.

Initial reports of the trials came out in September 2008, an update showing up in late Feb '09, with potential start date in Q2'09. It is anybody's guess if and when this trial will happen. What do you think are the odds of Citi being able to pull this off?

Is this the beginning of a new trend/market segment? This question is a little broader one, around innovative ways to field trials and reducing the cost of product development especially in the Web 2.0 paradigm.

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