The absence of good telephone directory services and harassment by telemarketers have made India the No. 1 user base of the Truecaller app.“Over half of our 70 million users are in India, and we are adding 110,000 users a day here,” says Kari Krishnamurthy, Truecaller’s vice-president of growth & partnerships in Asia, Middle East & Africa.
The Truecaller app, developed by a startup in Sweden in 2009, allows you to identify the person who is calling you, even if the person is not listed on your smartphone contact book. It allows you to block numbers, such as those of telemarketers or others seeking unwanted attention. Its premium service even allows you to track, say, an old friend whose contact details you do not have.
Indians are generally major users of such communication and social media apps. India is the biggest user of Whatsapp, the second biggest user of Facebook and LinkedIn, and the third biggest user of Twitter. But in the case of most of these apps, the India figures are 8% to 10% of the global user figure. In Truecaller’s case, it’s over 50%.
Krishnamurthy says a big reason for their success in India is the absence of good directory services. “Indians are very social, and often we fail to take the contact details of someone we meet for the first time, and then Truecaller becomes a good way to find those details. Some 800 million name and number searches are made every month, much of that in India,” he says.
An equally major reason is also to avoid harassment. Spam calls, including those from telemarketers and PR folk, are rampant in India. Truecaller allows you to differentiate a spammer from someone whose call you may want to take. “We block 1 million spam calls every day, about half of that in India. And we also pass on information about callers who have been blocked by many users,” Krishnamurthy says.
Truecaller uses a simple mechanism to identify callers. The moment someone downloads the app, the app accesses all the contact details on the person’s phone. This has allowed Truecaller to create a massive data base of names and numbers. There is also built-in intelligence to ensure you are shown the right caller ID, in case the same number is listed by different people under different names. Still, there are times when Truecaller gets it wrong.
In February, Truecaller, a 40-people operation of which only one is in India, received $18.8 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and others. New Delhi-based Phone Warrior, founded last year, is a service similar to Truecaller, and within a few months of launch reported over a million downloads of its app across India, Indonesia and the UK. It has raised a seed round of around $550,000 from Lightspeed Venture Partners.