Recent studies on India’s online population have revealed that a sizeable portion of India’s netizens access the internet through their mobile devices. The activities that engage people the most, while they are online, include the search, online shopping and with increasing popularity, social networking. Smartphones comprise a miniscule percentage of the Indian mobile handset market, which points to the fact that there is great potential for SMS-based social networking platforms.
This is exactly what SMS GupShup, a group messaging company and social network, tapped into in 2007. SMS GupShup is a free service and allows users to sign up into various special interest groups, with topics addressing such varied interests as religion and sports. For advertisers this is a great way to target specific users for their marketing activities, instead of spamming all day. Today the SMS-based social networking platform boasts of over 50 million subscribers and counting.
Indian e-commerce sites have generated maximum interest among VC’s (Venture Capital firms) and hence, the news of another round of funding for SMS GupShup is like a breath of fresh air. It just goes to point out the fact that Indian dotcom companies with fresh and viable ideas have a fighting chance. Since it inception SMS GupShup has raised $47 million in funding, with the latest round fetching $10 million. Tenaya Capital led this, the fifth round of funding, which also included SMS GupShup’s existing investors Globespan Capital Partners, Helion Ventures and Charles River Ventures. The fourth round had been led by Globespan Capital Ventures and had seen an influx of $12 million in funding.
SMS GupShup has an excellent line-up of advertisers, which include market leaders such as Microsoft, Cadbury and Kingfisher. Youth and lifestyle-centric brands like Puma, Maybelline and FastTrack have also jumped into the bandwagon. Indians carry out as much as 49% of their online activities through a mobile device. This makes it overtly important for advertisers to concentrate equally on mobile advertisement. Advertisers have a better chance of reaching their target audience on one of SMS GupShup’s community, as they would have a clear idea on the kind of people active in those communities. With the launch of their own App Store, SMS AppShup has also given an interesting platform for developers.
SMS GupShup has been able to enter the rural market, which till recently was not penetrated by social networking. This augurs well for the company and the potential to grow is huge. Over the last year SMS GupShup has experienced 300% growth in activity and an astounding 400% increase in revenue. Mobile based social networking is here to stay and that is further endorsed by the fact that the world’s numero uno social network,Facebook, has launched specific services targeting the low-end or basic mobile devices sector. Its acquisition of Snaptu is another indication that Facebook understands the opportunity in this sector.
By: Riddhi Mukherjee