ZipDial gives brands marketing opportunities via 'missed calls'

The Bangalore-based startup is one of the first success stories in India’s missed-call business tapping in this unique phenomenon.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor on

To a lot of Indians, a missed call means a lot more than just a call that went unnoticed or that deserves a call back.

As opposed to pagers, right from the time mobile technology penetrated the Indian market and the usage of prepaid mobile users became big and the concept of missed call became popular amongst many Indians. Considering one won't be charged for a call that went unanswered, to many this concept became part of daily usage especially to prepaid users who didn't want their minutes deducted.

Essentially for a lot of Indians who use prepaid phones, each connected call and sent text costs money and therefore the missed call was born. For example, if you arrived to pick up your friend you would just call them and disconnect the phone to indicate that you're waiting downstairs, or if you wanted someone to call you back from their landline you'd give them a "missed call" as it's predominantly termed across India.


This concept became a business opportunity for Bangalore based startup ZipDial in March 2010. According to Valerie Wagoner, founder and CEO of Zipdial, the inspiration behind this startup was a brainstorming session she had with Sanjay Swamy (now chairman of ZipDial) on a late night flight back to Bangalore from New Delhi.

"We were pondering the problem retailers face in tracking consumer loyalty, lack of availability of consumer data at personalised level and we floated the missed call solution. Amiya Pathak, founder and COO, and the tech brain behind ZipDial created a prototype during the 2010 season of the Indian Premier League for cricket. Literally, within a couple months, millions of users were ZipDialing millions of times a day," said Wagoner.

The Indian Premier League is like the Super Bowl of India, with major brands targeting consumers across all advertising channels. It made sense for them to test their product to gain millions of users to just give a missed call and know the score of any game. With cricket scores being demanded by 4 million subscribers, the company cracked into the booming Indian mobile market and knew that it was an instant success.

ZipDial is a marketing and analytics platform for mobile marketing used for all the major global brands. The founders recognized two problems in the market. First, in such a diverse market like India, advertisers needed more granular data on consumer preferences, and they could not get this from the Internet and smart phones or payment data with their penetration being quite on the lower side. Secondly, users get nothing personalized and advertising messages are predominantly Cricket, Bollywood and spam. According to Wagoner, such a similar scenario exists in other emerging markets like Africa, some partsof Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. 

Their clients are brands who use ZipDial to engage with a large pool of its consumers over mobile, and this in turn gives them insights which could mean a lot to marketers and advertisers. The data that they get can be used for intelligent, data-driven marketing. And end users too get near marketing personalised communication as they subscribe to them on their own accord.

The service that the company provides is provisioning a phone number that advertisers and companies like KFC and Pepsi can showcase on their Ads, Billboards, Collateral and Social Media, and etc 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. This is important because incoming text messages are free for prepaid cellphone users.

As of now ZipDial continues to be the leader and the largest players in the very business segment that we invented nearly 4 years ago. According to Wagoner, they are now poised for international expansion in South Asian countries.

Yes there are a lot of competitors who've emerged and are exclusively focusing on selling numbers and missed calls and are totally missing the big picture and commoditizing the service.

"Even if a copycat competitor is cutting corners and corroding the market, we continue to focus on innovation and quality. Our latest innovation "ZipDial Twitter Fast-Follow" to follow celebrities Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, or HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and thought leaders across the globe is a testimony to this. This product has increased the reach of Twitter 10 times and enabled brands to reach even non-Twitter users," said Wagoner.

Truly, India has a lot of growth in it's usage of mobiles and not just smartphones. So it's certainly a marketthat this startup has tapped into. ZipDial has key applications in marketing, and business operations which are highly scalable and stable. Marketers and advertisers are the ones who use ZipDial as of now. They also closely work with brand and agency teams from FMCG, Consumer Durables, NGOs and many other verticals. 

An interesting aspect of this startup is that their marketing budgets are 'Near zero.' "Our unique invention, and the tangible, quantifiable value that it has given to global brands in India, Sri Lanka and now Bangladesh is paving our way further," stated Wagoner.

Advertisers and brand managers deeply integrate ZipDial into their marketing in following sample use cases:

  • Drive authenticated product sampling - be it in-store or online.
  • On pack-activations - Get simple call-to-actions using missed calls on product packs and activate those any time to to respond to competition rapidly.
  • Integrate social media with mobile - eg. Use "ZipDial Twitter Fast-Follow" to amplify the reach of the brand's or brand ambassador's Twitter handle to non-Twitter, feature phone users.
  • Make campaigns go viral using ZipDial Friend Referral.
  • Build an ongoing relation with their consumers at a personalised level with gratification - be it mobile recharge, text or voice content.
  • Use ZipDial to ease out operations like cash-on-delivery confirmations, mobile number verifications, simple lead generation, customer feedback, conduct surveys on mobile, click-to-call, lead generation etc.

For end users, ZipDial is of course free of charge, works on all handsets, all operators. For their enterprise customers they work closely with them to design best of the mobile marketing campaigns over ZipDial to maximize their marketing ROI and this is the key. 

ZipDial has received seed funding from Mumbai Angels, Blume Ventures, U.S.-based 500 StartUps, Singapore-based Jungle Ventures, and Times Internet. While they continue to serve their India clients, they are now expanding internationally. They are already active in Sri Lanka and intend to go live in at least one more country by the end of this fiscal year. "The intention is to serve our global brand customers where ever they are present, especially in the emerging markets," added Wagoner.


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