Wednesday, March 6, 2013

ZipDial Has Turned 400M Missed Calls Into Moneymaking Connections

8079664230_5437818307_zDuring my trip to India, one of the most interesting companies that I met with was ZipDial. In a really cool home-turned-office in Bangalore, a team of brilliant people have turned a phenomenon that is unique to the country into a booming business. That phenomenon is missed calls. While that might not sound like big business, once you realize why this is a prevalent behavior in India, it will make perfect sense. Basically, a lot of residents in the country use prepaid cellphones. Each connected call and sent text makes a dent into how much someone can communicate, therefore the missed call was born. If you were to drop your friend off at their house and head home, you would call them and then hang up, as to signal that you’ve arrived safely. This way, nobody is charged for the call. It’s kind of like the behavior of paging someone with “911″ back in the day, as if to say “call me immediately.” While the pager behavior never turned into a business, the missed call behavior most certainly has, and ZipDial owns the space. The service that the company provides is provisioning a phone number that advertisers and companies like Disney and Gillette can plaster on billboards and newspaper ads, allowing people to call the number and disconnect without getting charged. After that, the person is sent a text message with communication about deals, coupons or any other messages that the business wants to convey. Why is this important? Because incoming text messages are free for prepaid cellphone users. The telcom companies in India love it, because it’s creating traffic that never existed before. These companies can learn more about their “followers” by sending them surveys, which we’re told that many folks participate in. In many cases, these campaigns have outperformed those taking place on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The company has just announced reaching the milestone of 400M missed calls, and we discussed how ZipDial has made waves in a market that didn’t exist before it did with its founder and CEO, Valerie Wagoner. Their story is quite fascinating: TC: Why missed calls? What was interesting to you that screamed opportunity? Wagoner: Growth in mobile adoption has been astonishing over the last five years or so, shooting up to more than 700 million users. Around 2009-2010 time frame, there were more than 20 million new, first-time mobile


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