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NEW DELHI : Swedish caller identification service, Truecaller, on Tuesday launched a digital directory of the Indian government for both Android and iOS platforms even as the government’s plan for a homegrown caller identification system threatens to impact the company’s operations in its largest market by users.

The database includes public helplines of state and central government services, embassies, police departments, government-run schools and hospitals. The service is presently available across 23 states and union territories.

Truecaller’s announcement comes a week after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) issued a cross-industry consultation paper to build a native caller ID system. The regulator noted, in its consultation paper titled ‘Introduction of Calling Name Presentation (CNAP) in Telecommunication Networks’ on 29 November, that the presently available caller ID options for users, which includes Truecaller, are not entirely reliable since their services are “based on crowd-sourced data, which may not be reliable in many instances."

Trai’s efforts are likely to impact the core business model of Truecaller, which is among the most popular caller ID services. The company claims to have more than 240 million users in India, its largest market.

Currently, Truecaller offers two paid tiers of service for its users namely Premium Connect at 549 per year, and Premium Gold at 4,999 per year. The company advertises features such as ad-free usage, ’premium’ spam protection, ‘who viewed my profile’ and an incognito mode.

The government directory will be a free service. Truecaller also launched features like covid-19 helplines in April 2021, and ‘Smart SMS’ spam filtering service in June last year.

Industry experts said while Truecaller’s primary product so far remains caller identification, the move to add a government directory could be the early steps of the company looking to diversify its services. Nishant Bansal, senior research manager for telecommunications, Asia-Pacific at market analysis firm International Data Corporation (IDC) said Truecaller is likely to make more such announcements “to protect its largest market by user base, as India accounts for nearly 75% of all its users around the world."

“The government’s CNAP database is under consultation, and telcos and involved parties are likely to take at least 12 months—or more—to come to a consensus for India to have an ‘official’ caller ID service. This gives Truecaller time to diversify its offerings with other services, such as the ‘smart SMS’ service that it launched last year to identify spam links and scams in a phone’s SMS inbox," Bansal said.

He further said that new features such as these could be key to Truecaller succeeding in diversifying beyond just caller identification. “If you see on Android devices, there is already a default indicator built into the system that alerts users about potential spammers. This makes it important for Truecaller to diversify its services effectively. For instance, the government directories may not find a lot of takers if they only offer the central government’s broad department numbers; a more localized view of numbers with state government and local authority bodies may help the service find takers in the long run."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shouvik Das

Shouvik Das is a science, space and technology reporter for Mint and TechCircle. In his previous stints, he worked at publications such as CNN-News18 and Outlook Business. He has also reported on consumer technology and the automobile sector.
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