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Earlier this year, India’s telecom regulator Trai announced that it was asked to work on a national caller ID system, to be released in a “few months’ time”. The nudge came from India’s department of telecommunications (DoT), Trai’s parent body. The move could potentially put a spanner in the works for Truecaller, a mobile application with a caller-identification feature. 

The Sweden-based company allows users to tag unwanted callers tag unwanted callers The Ken What's bugging Truecaller Read more , helping publicly identify spammers. Once a user has identified a caller, all other Truecaller users see that ID when receiving a call. Over the years, it has built a daily user base of ~250 million and a directory of approximately 6 billion phone numbers. Roughly 70% of its users and a substantial chunk of its directory are both scooped up from India, a country without privacy legislation. 

In October 2021, Truecaller listed on Nasdaq Stockholm, doubled its revenues, and became profitable.

Thanks to a set of moves by Truecaller’s adtech team—largely based out of India—the company saw its total revenues jump 130% between 2020 and 2021. Ads, its biggest revenue stream that contributed 84% to overall revenue in the year ended December 2021, saw a jump of 160%. The company managed to unlock greater efficiency in the ads business and effectively tripled its ad inventory, according to company executives and corporate filings.  

In 2020, it launched a new revenue stream called Truecaller for Business globally. The business-to-business (B2B) service leverages the company’s ability to identify, label, and block spam calls and, in turn, allows clients and their telemarketing partners to reach the users without being labelled as spammers. For the year ended December 2021, this roughly contributed less than ~2% to revenue, according to former company executives. The executives and others from the industry The Ken spoke to requested anonymity as they aren’t authorised to speak to the media.  

In addition, it launched two apps. One was Trucaller’s own version of the highly-popular audio-only social networking app Clubhouse, called Open Doors, on 13 July. And the other, launched earlier in March this year, is a personal safety app called Guardians. Through this, families can locate members on a map and use it in times of distress. In tandem, the company’s public policy team in India has been carrying out a massive public relations campaign titled #itsnotok across Indian states around women’s safety. 

If India’s telecom agencies have their way, however, all of Truecaller’s growth in India may end up being for nought.

Truecaller’s biggest strength—its users—might also be its Achilles heel. There is no stipulation about whose name is tagged to a specific number.

AUTHOR

Pratap Vikram Singh

Pratap is based out of Delhi and covers policy and myriad intersections with the other sectors, most notably technology. He has worked with Governance Now for seven years, reporting on technology, telecom policy, and the social sector.

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