Group messaging service company SMS GupShup, was launched in 2007. The company recently made waves in the technological world as it received a $10 million funding from the Tenaya Capital. It was valued at Rs 1,000 crore at the time of funding.
The company, commonly described as a mobile social network, enables people to build community platforms where people can create groups and also join groups of interest. The communities are built over the SMS platform.
Out of the 1.4 billion Indian population, there are 800 million mobile subscribers, as compared to the 84 million internet users. The mobile internet users in India are about 46 million in number. SMS GupShup claims to have about 50 million users and about 5 million communities on its platform.
Talking to exchange4media, Beerud Sheth, Co-Founder and CEO, SMS GupShup explains the concept behind the company’s premise, “We are lately seeing the emergence of mobile as a platform. As compared to the internet population, the population on this platform is ten times bigger. It is important point to remember that the only thing that works across all mobile devices are – voice and SMS. Internet enabled phones are still quite less in the number. So it is only with voice and SMS that one can truly reach out to the entire customer base anytime, anywhere. SMS as a platform is ubiquitous in that manner.”
“Our product can potentially reach out to all the users available on this platform. A website or a newspaper cannot make a claim of reaching out to everyone, while being a mobile service we can. The reach is larger than even the internet audience,” he added.
Sheth also claims that this platform of group messaging is a powerful tool for brands to connect and engage with a group of consumers. According to the company about 25000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) use the services besides 500 top brands such as Pepsi, Nokia, Kelloggs and Ford and Facebook.
Ravi Sundararajan, VP, Marketing, SMS GupShup elaborates, “The key things businesses look at are – acquire customers, and retain them by keeping them engaged and keeping them happy. They spend on TV, Print and other mediums to acquire customers. If we look at the latest movement for Anna Hazare, it was evident people came out on their own to make communities and participate in the entire protest. So it is evident now that consumers now want to be participative in the process of branding. So SMSes are powerful tool to communicate and engage with the consumers.”
Sheth added, “We look to create communities on the SMS platform. These communities are formed by an option for consumers to opt-in. We build community platforms where people can create groups and join groups of interest. We do not believe much in push SMSes either. We would rather have a consumer opt-in.”
SMS GupShup services many SMSes sent out by airlines to their customers. It also has collaborated with Facebook in India, to be used a platform for engaging with the customer base. Facebook users can receive notifications on their mobile phones through SMSes and update status messages similarly. Traffic police departments in 11 cities use it to help spread information and keep people updated with travel alerts.
Sheth believes, “Every brand can use our communities to engage with their consumers – with good content such as contests, lucky draws, polls, and get product feedback. Every campaign that a brand engages in for marketing, has a life period. But with communities, once consumers opt-in for your brand’s information, you can keep on increasing them from one campaign to another, so you do not have start all over again with the campaign.”
On being asked about why the medium is not being leveraged by brands much, Sundararajan explains, “There is a lack of awareness about the medium because of which not all brands have looked to engage with the medium. Another reason is that brands go through agencies, who push morefor print and TV as a medium as there are more profits there.”
Talking about the competition with mobile media and advertising companies, Sheth believes that, “While the mobile media companies promote mobile apps, games, WAP browsers and other such channels on the platform, we do not believe that they are as relevant as SMSes, because of the reach of this platform. Being independent of the mobile handsets and services, this is a service that can connect brands to consumers – anyone, anytime and anywhere.”
Talking about the funds received by the company, Sheth explains that they are going to be invested in research and development, sales and marketing and to expand the platform and internationally.