For, the Great Indian Missed Call the weapon of choice for perpetually broke pre-paid users like students and migrant laborers is turning out to be a Rs.500 crore business opportunity for banks, FMCG majors, even political parties.
While individual consumers, especially of the pre-paid variety 96% of India's 900 million mobile user base give a missed call to pass on mundane information like 'Have reached destination', or 'Call me back,' companies use this as a kind of Morse Code for customer feedback, saving millions of rupees in call-center charges and telephone bills.
For instance, banks have adopted the missed call to find solutions to most common query of their customers account balance. ICICI Bank customers can give missed call to a particular number and get their account balance status as a text message, instantly. Dial another number, you'll get mini-statements delivered to your inbox.
Punjab National Bank, Axis Bank and Bank of India are a few other banks who are availing the missed call opportunity. The Missed Call Bandwagon include around a 100 large companies including HUL and Microsoft besides small businesses, restaurants, e-commerce portals, television channels and even political parties.
In rural India, the missed call model is being put to some innovative uses. For instance, a Marathi daily has started a campaign asking its readers to give a missed call to a particular number to renew their subscriptions.
Similarly, BMG Cinemas, the first multiplex in Rewari, Haryana, has tied up with IMI mobile to use the 'missed call' tool. Rewari residents now give a missed call to a BMG Cinema number and get an instant SMS on the movies that are currently being played across its four screens. IMI mobile's founder and CEO Vishwanath Alluri tells ET that the company is putting in place a similar setup for Chennai's largest cinema complex Satyam Cinemas where customer would even be able find the seat availability on that day across its six theaters.
Veerchand Bothra, the chief stratteregy officer of Netcore Solutions, that executed a popular missed-call project for HUL, says that it can also be used as a mobile verification tool and can be a substitute for physical presence or signature.
He should know, for Netcore implemented the 'Missed Call Solution for Anna Hazare's Campaign'. In a first for the country, the India Against Corruption campaign used the 'missed call' route to garner the support of 250 lakh people within 180 days.
When Anna Hazare kicked off his campaign in April 2011, Indian Against Corruption asked citizens to give a missed call to register their support. The movement, led by Anna Hazare, even used this data to counter government's argument that public support to their initiative was limited.
"Dialing is the simplest action that can be executed on the mobile. It is device-agnostic one does not need a smartphone for dialing a number," points out Sanjay Swamy, who cofounded ZipDial mobile solutions in 2010, the largest player in the missed call business. The company has grown by 600% in last year, charging Rs10 lakh to Rs1,000 to customers such as Procter & Gamble, Forever Diamonds, Gillette and others, for surveys or sales leads. And all that cash has come in from some very personal experience.
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Valerie Wagoner, chief executive officer of Zipdial, used to give a missed call to her mother, to inform that she had reached college, while studying in the US. She says it's a misconception that missed call is being used only by the prepaid users.
"A person booking a flight from a MakeMyTrip or those buying diamonds is often not prepaid users. It's popular just because it's simple." Wagoner says Zipdial is expanding to all emerging markets such as Africa, Middle East and Latin America, where people give each other missed calls, the largest one being India.
"Brands love it because they don't have to develop a full blown IVR and customers love it because they are not paying anything to engage with the brand," says Vijay Shekhar Sharma, chief executive officer of One97 Communications, which works with brands like Coke and Nestle.
Now, what's wrong in giving a missed call to the cops when your car's stolen? The day is not far when that call will invite a text message with the complaint number as ordained by the local SHO.