Friday, April 29, 2005

Skypeasy to the homeland

Over in Vienna, my good cyberfreund Lars has some interesting ruminations on the possibilities for Skype-enabled call shops. I don't know how much our readers in places like the US or Japan can relate to the call shop concept, but despite Vienna's probable whitebread "Sound of Music" image in the outside world, it is actually a modern melting pot, as is London (and also places like Geneva and Luxembourg - believe it or not). Not far from my home in South London, there are numerous ethnic barber shops and internet salons (I wouldn't call them cafes as such) which also offer cheap international phone calls, FAX services, and money transfers to a variety of countries. In this part of London, it tends to be mainly West Africa and Latin America. In other areas it could just as easily be Turkey, Poland, Bangladesh or Vietnam.

I guess the point is that, as Skype expands its local termination footprint to make SkypeOut a more economically attractive proposition, the incentive for small entrepreneurs to Skypify their premises will grow (Lars rightly stresses the margin enhancement potential for the shop owner). And it's not just the expatriate market that could benefit. Whenever I am in London's more touristic areas (West End, Kings Road, et al) I am invariably amazed at the sheer number of people I see in the EasyInternetcafes, most of whom seem to be from "developed" markets, many from North America. Easy Group currently has internet cafes in nine countries, and is looking to franchise out to expand elsewhere. If I were Stelios, I'd think seriously about Skyping Niklas to discuss some sort of co-branding arrangement.

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