New Delhi: Way2SMS, the start-up that pioneered web-based SMS before the days of WhatsApp, has reinvented itself as a local languages news app and will leverage its strong tier-II and tier-III user base for email and targeted marketing for growth.
Its SMS-through-website service was a hit back in the day when people flocked to it to send free text messages. As the SMS business slumped after 2014—with falling mobile tariffs and the advent of internet-based chat apps—the company was left with a highly profiled user data-base but nothing to sell.
Way2SMS amassed 50 million users with about 600,000 visitors every day, founder and chief executive Raju Vanapala said. “The phenomenon was very clear—macro activity of SMS was going down," he said.
In 2015, the Hyderabad-based start-up pivoted to a multilingual news app Way2Online. Like the earlier Way2SMS, Way2Online relies on a display ads model for revenue. It aggregates and delivers news content in nine Indian languages including Malyalam, Telugu, Kannada and Bangla.
But the essential pivot was opening up the trove of phone numbers and emails—a data base of mostly non-urban users uncultivated by modern ad networks—to advertisers and marketers.
Way2SMS today delivers services like email marketing, targeted advertising and re-marketing through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media portals.
“We have a large marketing and sales team; we are sitting on a huge, highly profiled data base where we have all the demographic information of the users, so we do targeted marketing and adverting for almost all major ad networks and B2B (business to business) clients especially banks," Vanapala said. “We also plug this data-base to Facebook and re-tag the users for advertisers."
According to Vanapala, the B2B part of the business has grown to 70% of the company’s total revenue, while the B2C—Way2Online—contributes the rest.
The company posted Rs70 crore in sales in the fiscal year ended March 2017 and is on the path of clocking Rs100 crore in gross sales this year, Vanapala said, adding that Way2SMS is profitable on a net basis.
Since 2015, the firm has grown to over 350 members, bulk of which is editorial staff. The news app (that also has a free SMS feature) has been downloaded over 13 million times and boasts one million daily active users.
“Most of our audience is non-urban. Telugu and Tamil audience dominate our local language platform, as we have deep penetration in the two states (Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh), followed by Bengal and a good number for Hindi," Vanapala said.