The True Story of Truecaller

In today’s world, it is said that data is the next oil. This suggests that if a company has data, it will rule the world. You might have noticed that all of the tech-giants today are rich in data resources – Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.

Let’s talk about another giant in the same league – widely used and scarcely talked about – Truecaller. I am sure most of you must have definitely heard about this name, if not used.

For the uninitiated, it is the same app that tells you the name of the person calling from an unknown number.

Truecaller is the story of a successful start-up which made our tech-savvy life a lot easier.

And the man who has given us this comfort is a face from Sweden, someone who likes to stay away from the glare of publicity – Alan Mamedi.

The Beginnings..

Alan began his career as a Salesman at The Phone House. He worked there for 2 years after which he went on to found a range of companies.’ was his very first venture which he started in 2006. While he was still building it, he had also cofounded another venture of his called Mö in 2007.

In 2009, Alan founded, which was known to be the largest network for employee reviews. Owing to its popularity, a company approached Alan to acquire his company and he agreed to sell it.

Then he began thinking – what next? What should be his next venture? And thus came in place his most ambitious venture – Truecaller!

Doing away with the Conventions

At the time of base phone, it was very simple for any person to look for a contact in the phone book and to get connected to that particular person. All the connections and relevant information were registered in phone books, or you can say yellow pages. But then came the smartphones era and the rest is history.

Mobile revolution was life-changing; but it also brought with it some new difficulties such as random numbers calling us, spam calls, undesired calls or some privacy/security concerns. 

One day Alan and his old friend Nami Zarringhalam, who was also his batchmate, were discussing how old Yellow pages had been put on the back burner by the Internet, but at the same time there wasn’t anything available for verification of personal phone numbers. 

This was what that got them to thinking!

They then started brainstorming on this idea and thus came a breaking-all-conventions-platform, Truecaller.

A Revolution before a revolution

Alan and Nami planned a research project and developed an online directory. Initially, this online directory used to search mobile numbers of only the missed calls they received, which could probably be from their family and friends. Then they collected crowd-sourced data from their community. They also managed to collect data from the national phone directory and unrolled its own API to a selected group of developers. Initially, it had countable numbers of connections as opposed to today which is more than two billion as of date.

Truecaller started off much before the era of all these app stores revolutions. Yes, you read it right. The tale of Truecaller started long ago before the globe knew about mobile apps. One had to download the CAD file for Windows Mobile, and then sideload it into the phone. Building Truecaller made them realise that it was a global problem. Getting more than 10,000 downloads in the first week itself instilled a sense of confidence in the duo. They somewhere knew they were doing something right.

Since it was a bootstrapped venture, the only marketing strategy they relied on was Word of Mouth. They believed it was the most powerful strategy that they could use to market their product. They made use of the power of their community, social media, and most prominently a simple product with a built-in viral mechanism.

The Growth

By 2012, Truecaller had reached a user base of more than 5 Million who were performing 120 million searches of the telephone number database each month. It had also launched its app on RIM Blackberry, Windows Phone and Nokia Series.

By 2014, India had become the biggest market for Truecaller and 25% of the cell phone users were using Truecaller in India. Adding to it, 2014 saw a mammoth increase in its user base from 10 million users in 2013, to 100 million users in 2014!

How does Truecaller make money?

Truecaller operates on a very basic Freemium model. As the word Freemium suggests, it is a combination of Free and Premium. The primary feature of Truecaller, i.e. searching phone numbers is a free service. The Free version is strategically made accessible to all its users since they eventually crowdsource information into their database. But as it is said – There is no free lunch!

“If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” This brings us to Truecaller’s first mode of revenue generation.

# Advertising: Advertisements play a very important role in revenue generation for any company. In the case of Truecaller, it is heavily flooded with ads. 

Now comes an escape mechanism from advertisements.

#Premium services : In addition to removing ads, it provides an incognito mode which allows you to check others’ profile (read stalk) people without alerting them. Additionally, you are able to know who all viewed your profile.

What do businesses want these days? Data.

What does Truecaller have in abundance? Data.

Seems like a match made in heaven?

# Truecaller for Businesses:  Truecaller has an API service for businesses and enterprises. There are several advanced features in this API and Truecaller is charging developers to use some of the features of its API.

Businesses can use “Contact requests” when they wish to connect with someone whose information is available on Truecaller. This service is extensively used by many business ventures these days for marketing purposes and Truecaller charges a huge amount of money for sharing those contacts to its customers.

Several companies such as BigBasket, CarDekho, Meesho, Myntra, PharmEasy, Unacademy, KhataBook, Rapido and others are using this service.

Since people may have their information protected by Truecaller’s privacy controls, Truecaller needs to notify them that they are interested in connecting.

Truecaller has also expanded its platform to add messaging and payments services, which has also allowed it to broaden the scope to monetize users. 

Truecaller today!

Truecaller has 200 million monthly active users (as of February 2020). More than 185 million of its monthly active user base is from India.

Truecaller is the only app not made by Google or Facebook on the list of top 10 most used apps in the country, according to mobile insights firm App Annie. 

Currently, the founders Alan and Nami are working to take Truecaller to the next level. We can expect Truecaller to go public by the end of next year!

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