SMS backup and storage

Written by: Vivek Garg

On Jan 28th, 2007

We have discussed many times why mobile is an important channel and exploding.  This IAMAI report about mobile VAS estimates the mobile VAS industry at Rs 2850 crores at the end of 2006 and is estimated to grow at 60% to touch Rs. 4560 crores at the end of 2007. Here is the split:


40% of this huge industry is the SMS we are sending to our friends and family every day. This got me thinking about the information present in each SMS. Given high churn rate of SMS, it seems like the information present is temporal and it is probably worthless once read, but personally I have found myself in situations where I regret deleting one.  What if we give an ability to store all your SMS automatically? Nothing ever gets deleted. Just like your email. What is involved in offering such a service that could be tremendously useful?  I found yahoo, aircel and handygo services in India that allow you to backup your SMS.

Yahoo service is one of the most well known and it has following rates. These SMS show up in your yahoo mail storage and will never get deleted.

Airtel, Hutch, Idea, Aircel, Spice, RIM – Rs. 3
BPL, Tata – Rs. 2
MTNL, BSNL – Rs. 1

These rates would cost me a fortune if I decided to backup every SMS I get that I do not know if I need it in future. I would rather send myself an email message with the short text contents incase I want to store my password, someone’s phone number, some account number etc.

What should happen if this service needs to succeed?

– Service should be dirt cheap, almost free. This needs innovation at multiple levels.
– Service should be transparent to the end user. Something like automatic backup at the gateway. Just like an email server.
– once stored, these messages should be easily browsable, searchable, taggable and shareable (fwd, download etc).

How do you make money from such a service?

– One time VAS – may be fixed cost.
– Free if you let advertisers look at your SMS to send you relevant SMS ads.
– SMS can be shared, tagged and searched by a social community around it that is looking for that joke that you got yesterday. This site can generate revenue, in turn subsidizing the cost of the backup service.

High barrier to entry? 

All of this sounds really nice and one could set up interesting views on SMS data but the barrier to entry in this business is extremely high. Tie up costs with technology enablers and short code providers can be staggering. IAMAI research shows that most operators also ask for deposit of Rs 2 million and a minimum guaranteed volume of half a million SMS per month. Experts can tell me if there are ways to circumvent these costs.

Let me know what would you do if you want to enable a social networking portal around millions of short text messages?

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Entry Filed under: aircel,handygo,mobile vas,sms backup,yahoo mobile

5 Responses

  1. 1. Radheshyam said on January 29th, 2007 at 3:46 am

    Hi vivek,
    Couple of months back I was thining over same opportunity. I diid some reaserach and got some conclusions It is not that easy from technical perspective as it looks from functional there are various companies in Europe working on subscription basis which backup your data online. is the one infact offering free backup worldwide for contacts. It did not work on my cell as that model is not supported in Australia but you cna try if it works for you.
    But you are right. This is till open opportunity in India as usage of mobile data is increasing and people are stroring important information into it. But I think some point of time operators will provide this facilty than third party.

  2. 2. vivek garg said on January 29th, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    This is certinaly an open opportunity but not a low hanging one. I dont think operators doing this would help. This requires a service across all operators and only an app developer can do justice. We will have to wait for prices to come down and when operators allow better revenue sharing.

    But Radheshyam, I am interested to know what specific technical snags you hit when you were researching on this?

  3. 3. Amit said on March 1st, 2007 at 6:21 am

    I liked the concept of sms being stored, sometime back I came across some service, that would keep your data in sync across places, not really sure about the name, as it was a bit long time ago.

    But what really excites me is the low cost, high penetration of SMS. It is not only the SMS storage that is exciting, but more over SMS can be used to do. Companies are trying to use the low cost sms for just more than ringtones and users passing on jokes and some random messages. It can be used for m-Commerce, m-Ordering and multitude of other things. But the question really is how to circumvent the operator.

    Operators in India (abroad also) are really a bully breed.

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