Mint Primer: How Trai's mandatory call ID will impact Truecaller

Truecaller helps you identify unknown numbers (Truecaller)
Truecaller helps you identify unknown numbers (Truecaller)

Summary

  • As Trai mulls defaulting caller identifications, will Truecaller go out of business?

India makes up two-thirds of users of Truecaller, the Swedish caller identification app. Now the Centre’s telecoms department may soon introduce such a service as a default telco offering. Mint decodes how such a move may affect telcos, and Truecaller:

Why is CNAP such a challenge?

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) says telecom operators should adopt calling name presentation (CNAP). This feature will offer the single most important feature that Truecaller offers—the ability to recognize a caller’s name before receiving the call. Truecaller does this by utilizing cross-referenced contact information from its user- base, while Trai’s proposal for CNAP is to display the name with which a user or a business’ number is registered with a telco. In most cases, industry experts expect caller information to overlap— hence essentially taking over Truecaller’s key business offering.

How much could this hurt Truecaller?

Truecaller’s revenue comes from two sources—by showing ads to users, and by charging a subscription fee. On 20 February, the company’s December quarter financial report revealed that India accounted for just over 75% of its $168 million annual revenue earned in 2023. As a result of this, the Indian government rolling out a native caller identification service is bound to have a key impact on Truecaller—which relies on India as its primary business market. For reference, India accounts for nearly two-thirds of Truecaller’s monthly active user (MAU)-base, which crossed 360 million at the end of December.

Would other rival services also be affected?

There are multiple other such services but Truecaller is the largest caller ID service. It employs 419 people around the world (as of December last year), and 71.6% of its latest quarter’s $42.23 million revenue came from India. While Google, Samsung and others have also tried to provide caller spam protection services, none has been as successful as Truecaller.

How has Truecaller reacted to this?

Shortly after Trai’s statement, a Truecaller spokesperson said the firm “would like to extend support to Trai, and is appreciative (of) any future initiatives." “Truecaller goes beyond just providing a basic number identification service... Trai recommendations can be a driving catalyst for our growth in India," it said. Industry veterans said the implementation of CNAP in its present form may suffer from inaccuracies that a privately maintained database could help remove. A rising business base also works in Truecaller’s favour.

How could telcos be impacted?

India’s three private telcos have highlighted challenges toward implementing CNAP as a default service. The say the call setup time could rise due to integrating and fetching data from a CNAP database for each call. Telcos are also worried about added infrastructure costs in a margin-constricted industry. CNAP may also not be compatible with more than 40% of phones in India—though Truecaller isn’t immune to this challenge either. Data privacy will be a key concern, so CNAP may not happen anytime soon.

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