A few years back we had a flood of free SMS sending sites. Though their revenue model has changed from footer ads in the SMS to serving banner ads on the web but the portals otherwise have good traction. Way2SMS, a leader in this segment is consistently amongst the top 30 sites of India for the past 2 years. Indyarocks managed to pull of a social network cum content farm on the back of Free SMSes.
A Surat (Gujarat) based startup, NumberTank is going one step further and offering free web to Mobile calling to its users. As a user you can make calls to people on your contact list free for 30Mins everyday (carry-forward-able). Currently the calls can be made to India, US and Canada. More countries would be added soon. You need to have an invite from existing members to join the network.
On first look the whole experience looks like a social network with free calling as a feature. The founder denies of attempting to make a social network.
We are NOT a social network. We are a communications company. We are trying to make communication real time, easy, seamless and more importantly, free.
If communication is the core of their product then voice quality of the calls has to be really worked upon.
The process of signing up is quite cumbersome with multiple forms. It makes it even more tedious when the flow does not capture the provided information to avoid singing in again. Though it shouldn’t be a problem because Indian users will take this pain for free calling. But the question is, what kind of users? Still, given the standards of wannabe networks that have come out of India in the past, NumberTank is quite decent.
Also, one has to answer 3 basic questions daily about themselves to get the 30mins of free calling. This is to build user’s interest graph. It will help them make quality recommendations for services they plan to release in the future. They claim to be working on some “unique” monetization model apart from conventional advertising.
Back in 2007, Ibibo had also launched the free calling feature to help gain traction to their social network. Recently they also signed a deal with Huawei to provide an app for the same on the latter’s mobile handsets. Ibibo is doing decently OK given the amount of spending they’ve been doing on sleazy ads around casual games.
What do you think of NumberTank? Do try it out and let us know.
[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He writes at The Inspire Blog]