Since its invention in the US in 1985, it has travelled to many countries. But in India, it’s gone ballistic. Acision, an international firm that provides mobile messaging services to over 300 network operators and service providers worldwide, claims there is a growth in the SMS segment in both mature and emerging markets, but the most astounding figures come from places like India.
This isn’t a surprise to us. Says an Airtel spokesperson, “SMS is picking up as a mode of communication. Youngsters use it the most. A young person sends around 80 to 90 SMSes for every 10 minutes he or she spends on a phone call. But for older people, phone calls are still the first choice. SMSes are penetrating their lives in other ways, though. They get alerts from banks and so on, news, use SMS as a way to take part in contests, and forward SMSes when they are needed to help someone, such as for a blood donation.”
And now that we can access email on our phones, more of us are in SMS mode.
Why is SMS so popular? “It’s discretionary. You can choose to respond or not and either way, it’s private,” says Harit Nagpal, marketing and new business director, Vodafone Essar.
Studies claim that people also like it because it is a simple way of ‘just saying hi’ sans argument or discussion. “This emerged as the biggest draw for everyone in our study of SMSes,” says the Airtel spokesperson.
Though on a growth mode, SMS penetration in India faces some limitations. The language barrier for instance – not everybody speaks English, and not all phones come with local language fonts.