Bangalore-based mobile marketing and communication startup ZipDial Mobile Solutions Pvt Ltd uses a 'missed call' route to register a mobile number, which is then used by its clients to get access to mobile users who have expressed interest in their products/services for sending promotional messages or information. In April, 2011, it had raised it first round of funding of Rs 3.5 crore, led by Mumbai Angels, in which US-based angel investors also participated. The two-year-old startup was co-founded by an expat Valerie Rozycki Wagoner, who also doubles up as the CEO. In an interview with Techcircle.in, she talks about the company's expansion plans, fundraising, tapping the smartphone market and how voice dialing and SMS are recreating value for a lot of large and small businesses by harnessing consumer behaviour.
Tell us more about the concept behind ZipDial?
It's a marketing communication tool based on the 'missed call' concept. One can simply give us a missed call, so that the number can be captured for marketing promotion and communication.
We tapped into that extremely simple, zero-friction consumer experience and rolled out different types of consumer engagement to create stickiness for brands or retailers or media. However, ZipDial is not a missed call company per se and we are creating intelligent consumer experience.
Having said that, one must remember that the market reality is different in India. Less than 10 per cent of the users have smartphones; less than 8 per cent have mobile internet and less than 40 per cent people know how to send an SMS.
Isn't that a crucial challenge?
No, that's the opportunity for us because we believe in the smartphone revolution. But even now, voice and SMS services are creating a lot of value for large and small businesses by harvesting consumer behaviour data and creating relevant solutions out of that.
What is your business model?
It's a kind of e-business model where brands, retailers and marketers leverage our services for their ads and campaigns. And it can range from a big pan-India campaign for a large company down to the most basic ZipDial service. However, any small business can sign up online for a small monthly fee and go live. As for subscription rates, it can cost lakhs for large-scale, customised solutions. Or one can just pay Rs 1,000 and sign up for the basic package.
What kind of traction are you getting here in India?
We have millions of ZipDials (read missed calls from consumers) every day. We have a ticker on our home page, ticking up every time one ZipDials. We are working with hundreds of large brands and companies while consumers of all ages are calling from every corner of India â€“ both urban and rural.
Who are your closest competitors?
Our competitors are alternative solutions providers to direct response. So SMSes through short codes or QR codes will be our competition.
How did you build the ZipDial platform in mobile space?
The ZipDial platform is all about management. It is the core platform that created all these app experiences â€“ be it a survey or playing a game or many other things that you can do on ZipDial.
We have also launched several solutions for new-use cases besides direct response to ads, customer feedback tools and a host of solutions for e-commerce companies. We also do COD verification for e-commerce firms and help them get customer feedback by verifying mobile numbers.
But it's not only about creating consumer acceptance. There are ways to ensure consumer gratification and we are working towards that. For instance, rather than giving a product discount upfront, one can deliver a different kind of gratification incentive by providing content or giving mobile recharge options. How to create that kind of consumer loyalty in an interesting way is something that is important in our business. Plus, there are new things on the cards.
Can you tell us more about those innovations?
The Indian market is massive and offers lots of opportunities. And there are 400 things that one can do with ZipDial. We have already prototyped 35 of those; we have 10 live in the market and we are further tempted to build new things. But for that, we will need money and hence, we need to earn more in revenues. But ultimately, we have to go and search for the money.
That means you will raise fresh funds soon?
Unless we are doing so well that we don't need to. But generally speaking, yes.
In April 2011, ZipDial raised Rs 3.5 crore from Mumbai Angels and a few Silicon Valley-based investors. How have you utilised that funding?
We are mostly spending it on scaling up our team and bringing in excellent people. And some part of it is used to meet the infrastructure cost. As a result, our revenues are growing steadily and we are now targeting a 5x rise in revenues than what it had been last year. That way, we expect to break even by the end of 2012.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)