Ramdev, Hazare and the power of missed call

Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare have more than one thing in common. While the recent protests against corruption is the first thing that sets them on the same stage, it is how they are gaining support that is drawing them even closer. Both the campaigns of Ramdev and Hazare have used a unique way of gaining support from India’s citizens. They have used India’s ubiquitous and pervasive missed call.

Missed call is a call which a person dials but hangs up before the receiver answers the call. The call ends up in the missed call list of the receiver and the receiver either calls back or gets the message which is pre-set between the caller and the receiver.

Anna Hazare’s campaign has come up with ‘give us a missed call if you want to support us’. Baba Ramdev is running a similar campaign and has received 55 lakh missed calls so far. Missed call it turns out is the most effective way of gaining support. It’s fine if it remains a mere statistic.

An Indian woman holds a child in her arm as she talks on a mobile phone in Allahabad, India, Friday, April 9, 2010. Pic: Ap.

Missed call is the ‘like’ of the traditional world. Or ‘like’ is the missed call of the Facebook world.

Quite a few companies have used the missed call popularity to their advantage. By simply giving a missed call to a number, a subscriber can get alerts and other services.  Kingfisher and Zipdial have introduced Zipdialling or a unique way of playing cricket. Zipdial took the already popular game of book cricket which is played by flipping pages and scoring based on the page numbers that would come out on each draw. The same game mechanics are replaced with mobile. The flipping of the pages is replaced by dialing and the page numbers through a series of text messages. All the players will be burning is the battery on the mobile and their own time.

Usage of missed calls as a powerful tool to communicate subtle messages is powerful and pervasive. Many people across India use missed calls to communicate to their dear ones. Some do it as a part of their frugal agenda

. For the lack of a recent estimate, telcos in India lost 25 percent of their revenues in missed calls. With the lowest voice call rates in the world and dropping text message rates, missed calls as a tool to communicate  had lost their sheen a wee bit recentlyuntil Ramdev and Hazare resurrectedit.

Missed call falls somewhere above making a call and below sending a text message, in terms of complexity.  A missed call is the simplest and the most frugal form of communication. Thanks to people like Ramdev and Hazare, missed call will not be a lost art.

Someone once said the best things in life are free. I agree.