Missed Call ‘Saab’? – India Outs Voice Mail

October 4, 2006

in Mobility

I’ve had many a hairy ride in auto rickshaws. These three wheel contraptions squeeze in and out.. have no lane sense … and now have a new angle on how to make and save money with their cheap cell phones and missed calls. Early on I went out and got myself a prepaid Hutch card. A friendly driver taking me around Delhi explained the missed call. When you come back out of the store… ring me twice… .and I’ll come and pick you up. This extends everywhere in the transport sector. Send a couple of rings and the drivers come running. They would take the call (for the most part they don’t understand me so what’s the point) as it is no cost to them. The counter is, those short missed calls often signal that the driver is arriving.

So in India we have cheap phones, recharges for less than a dollar and the missed call leverages the whole system. It seems India lives very effectively without voice mail as the default. This really is a stark contrast to the US.

My mobile experience is really very much like the majority of Indians. I may put a little more money on my prepaid card. Still the basic feature set… it does SMS and makes calls is the same. It does not do voice mail. Voice Mail is not a default here. In fact the learning I have is just forget about voice mail. If you can’t get through and need to leave a message then send an SMS. Frankly it is much more useful. It provides context, it is a quick read and importantly it doesn’t cost you minutes to retrieve the message which too often is long and garbled.

Lesson for America’s tortured mobile system. Charging for receiving SMS’s make that whole system counterproductive and often costs the receiver real bucks unless they have an SMS plan . Voice Mail, simply costs minutes to retrieve and is really less efficient. As I’ve noted before voice mail is a failure case. The caller failed to connect. As a T-Mobile USA user I’d happily turn my Voice Mail off based on my Indian experience. I don’t think that’s possible.

I think America is suffering from a legacy approach. Imagine you are in a meeting. What’s the point of a voice mail when you could have answered quickly with a text message. One interruption you could handle the other you could not. Of course thousands of Americans have worked this out. They use their Blackberries and Treo’s for e-mail messaging. The messaging happens in real time amongst their intimate circle. Yet that is still an exclusive club.

India is bypassing voice mail. I’m sure they will adopt rapidly certain forms of PTT (push to talk) and voice messaging. However, their learning and adoption of the text message rather than long voice mails is a blessing for longer term communications development.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Best Resort September 3, 2007 at 4:27 am

Looks like India has more advanced mobile system than US. Maybe it is because India is a developing country, and they have a fresh look at the modern technologies and use them more rationally. I think US today is a bit like former Soviet Union, they are stuck and need some reorganization in the society.

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