Google joins SMS race in India

India’s mobile user base has been growing at such an mouth-watering-impressive pace that it even Google cannot ignore it.

Google SMS

One has to note that these are very early days for this product. Few points that I observed,

  • Once you login you need to give a nickname. I think there must be just one nickname across all Google products (google groups, sms channels and any other product that may require). Having required to give the nickname again and again is painful.
  • Most of us have multiple profiles on Google – one personal and another work related. SMS Channels requires you to enter your mobile number, to which it sends a verification code. I am sure you know the rest of the process.  You can associate your mobile number with only one Google SMS channel account. I am sure there is a reason for this but it would be nice if they allow you to associate one mobile number with a max of two accounts.
  • SMS Channels mentions that there can be a delay in receiving the verification code. Very true. I did not receive the first time (even after waiting for hours) but on my second attempt I received it immediately. I feel it is the operator who is putting a big spoke in this process. I think operators don’t want third party VAS (value added service) providers to “succeed”. Unfortunate and their reason is simple – the “fear” of their (telco operator) own product having a premature death because of competition.
  • The settings page is useful. It allows you to set the timings during which you “don’t mind” receiving sms 😉 Also, you can set the maximum number of messages you would like to receive per day. I am sure they will enhance the settings such that the user could set the maximum number of messages he would like to receive for specific channels he has subscribed to.
  • Good to see they support Indian languages. Unfortunately your mobile phone needs to have the language font.

Google is not the first one to provide such a feature in India, check out who are the other players. MyToday was the first one to enter this space and I believe it is one of the best examples of how the user base can grow without spending on marketing (Disclaimer: I know their management pretty well but it has nothing to do with my opinion). You must read what Rajesh Jain thinks about the competition and his experience in building MyToday.

What is in it for publishers?

  • Publishers can now push their content on mobile platform for free. With the huge mobile user base in India, it is next to impossible to ignore that user base.
  • You can create your own group and sms within the group (the MOB feature of MyToday)

Once you login, it is fairly easy for a publisher to setup a channel for your content. You can send sms invites asking people to subscribe to your channel. Confirming subscription by SMS is something I have always found a bit painful.

This Google product is available in India and depending upon the success they say it will be released in other countries.

Oneindia.in was the first to publish language SMS (with the help of MyToday platform). The growth has been very satisfactory and I believe oneindia.in got many new users from this excercise. But we had to shut it due to rising costs of SMS. The same will happen to other publishers.

What is in it for end users?

End users get to choose content from multiple providers. Some will find it useful as it is clubbed with other Google services. Some day your alerts from Google Groups and other products could get tightly integrated with SMS channels.

Monetization

I don’t think publishers will be able to monetize from Google SMS channels. Some day Google will have advertisements in every SMS, not sure if they will share it with the publishers. They may.

SMS Portals in India have made their presence felt. The big ones are MyToday and SMS Gupshup. With Google joining this bandwagon I believe Mobile Marketing in India will move to the next level. There will be a lot of pressure of all Mobile Marketing to sell the entire inventory of these big SMS portal giants. Over time mobile marketing will succeed because of  invertising.

Comments

  1. Varun Rajagopalan says:

    Very interesting read. It goes without saying that having ventured into SMS and now, the G1 (Googlephone), Google intends to break into telecom sooner than we think.

    Airtel, Vodofone, Idea, Google.. Sounds cool and a definite possibility!

  2. Varun Bhoopalam says:

    More over being in a GPRS and 3G(Shortly launched) India, SMS has been one of the most used channels. In the way of using the above mediums to send and receive SMS and routes.

    Even many companies like mGinger, mEarn have started their way in earning money from both the sides receiver and the ad giver….

    Truly India is bein SMS’s all over the world.

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