Fortune Lotto Plans SMS Route, Shoppers Stop Deal

Kolkata, Aug 29: | Updated: Aug 30 2003, 05:30am hrs
Fortune Lotto online lottery, a venture of the Essar group, is in talks with Hutchison to enable cellphone users to play for the jackpot using SMS or short message service, according to an official of the distributor.

Computer Aided Information & Research Services Pvt Ltd, which holds the distribution rights to the Nagaland state governments online lottery, branded Fortune, has already launched its online terminals in West Bengal and Kerala, and will be entering Karnataka and Maharashtra next.

Mr Arun Batra, chief of sales and distribution at CAIRS, which is a venture with Essar Teleholdings Ltd, pointed out that Essar and Hutch are business partners in telecom.

We are looking at SMS-based lotteries. The technology is there, and we are looking at a couple of statutory issues, he said. The customer can SMS his choice and will even get a confirmation.

Mr Batra said the growing chain of online computer kiosks retailing the Fortune lottery will be supplemented with strategic tieups with retail chains like Shoppers Stop and those owned by petroleum majors.

We are looking at strategic alliances, and have already tied up with Bharat Petroleum, at the time our our launch about two months back, he said.

We are also talking to Shoppers Stop and other retail chains who have multiple outlets across the country, he said. The aim is to have 10,000 outlets by the year-end.

When contacted in Mumbai, Shoppers Stop Ltds managing director, Mr BS Nagesh, confirmed that talks are taking place.

We want to try it out of our Kolkata stores, where they have launched, Mr Nagesh said. Right now, we are looking at various aspects.

Within a few months, CAIRS expects to have finalised the technology and process that will enable the 2.8 million Hutch cellphone users spread across India to choose their winning numbers via SMS.

Hutchison-affiliated companies operated cellphone services in the four metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, as well as the states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

In the main Fortune game, a player buys a card for Rs 10 and gets to choose six number out of the series 1 to 49 printed on it. The numbers chosen go into a central computer, and if they match the numbers drawn by the machine, the prize is Rs 2.5 crore.

Mr Batra said the payment method has not been decided yet. That has to be worked out may be we will ask consumers to buy a card in advance, he said. He pointed out that it is a business for Hutch also, because it earns revenues from SMS.

Mr Batra said the online lottery business holds enormous potential, with liberalisation of the economy washing away the stigma associated with lotteries.

We are trying to expand the market and attract more and more people from all segments the middle class and upper middle class since our economy is shedding the social stigma against lottery, he said.