Feature

How Truecaller found its true calling in India

How the spam-screening, caller-id app found a wildly successful market in India

When Swedish nationals Nami Zarringhalam and Alan Mamedi founded Truecaller in 2009, they didn’t have India on their radar, not even remotely. They had built the caller-id app for personal use, to screen calls from angry companies who wanted reviews on their workplaces taken down from a website founded by Zarringhalam and Mamedi. That site was called Jobbigt, meaning troublesome, it was later sold for $20,000, and the money was used to buy equipment to test Truecaller.

The call-screening app was an instant hit, when it was shared on an internet forum. Downloads had touched 10,000. Over days and months, it crossed hundreds of thousands, and today it has 200 million monthly active users (MAUs)! The icing on the cake — the company has not spent a single dollar on customer acquisition. The success caught them by surprise, but what really changed the course of their lives was the popularity of the app in India.

More than 75% of the app’s users are in this country, which the two had never visited till 2013, the year Sequoia India brought the founders’ attention to the potential in this market. The firm even led an $18.8 million round of funding for Truecaller, which had till then faced rejections from over 15 venture capitalists. Today, the app has raised close to $100 million from several investors including Atomico, Kleiner Perkins and Zenith Ventures.

Talking to Outlook Business from the Stockholm headquarters, co-founder and chairman Zarringhalam says, “India found us. It is our home market”. Truecaller is the third-most downloaded app here, after Google and Facebook.

In 2018, India was the top spam call and message-receiving country in the world with the average spam call per user at 22.6/month, with the USA second at 20.7. Today, India has dropped to fifth on the list, but that’s not because the number of spam calls has dropped, in fact it has increased to 25.6. The ranking changed because the numbers have worsened in other countries — Brazil now ranks first with 45.6, which is also a growth market for the company with over 300,000 MAUs.

Big India play 
It is definitely a huge opportunity but Truecaller isn’t sitting pretty. It’s working hard to make the most of it. For one, it has i

unsub

You don’t want to be left behind. Do you?

Our work is exclusively for discerning readers. To read our edgy stories and access our archives, you’ve to subscribe