The dating game

The total number of mobile web users grew past the total number of PC based
Internet users for the first time in 2008

Reuters reported this week Indian mobile operators added a record 15.64 million customers during March, taking mobile users for the region to close on 400 million people.

India’s vast geography and infrastructure means that the entry point for users to gain a mobile (in terms of cost) is far lower than obtaining traditional fixed line phone access.

The local mobile operators are trying to answer the same question as their Western counterparts:

How maximise their revenue from this vast consumer base over and above traditional voice SMS services?

With the added complication of a technology infrastructure that lags behind the investment’s made in the evolved markets such as the UK, the marketing folks have even less functionaility to try and entice customers to make more use of their handsets.

Internet Cafe’s are still expensive and also not really available outside the main towns and cities, so while data technologies such as GRPS and 3G are not available to the entire mobile community, mobile does offer a greater opportunity for users to engage with the web, albeit in a more limited fashion.


A number of ingenious operations have sprung up which use these hurdles as opportunities – one of which around the issue of 'dating' .

The process of arranged marriages in India is still a practise that survives today – however western influences means the younger generation are taking more control in the process, a generation who is embracing mobile.


While phone services cannot compete with the richness of the web, the ability to send pictures (MMS) make an ideal conduit for dating services to operate through.
In the UK operators tried to ‘ shoe horn ‘ web content onto the phone, in India they have appreciated the limitations of the device / geography / user community to deliver a blended service to users.

Press 1 for girlfriend

The successful services make use of a very familiar technology, DTMF – to you and me the ‘ choice ‘ selections we are given when we call our banks to press 1 to speak to an operator ( who incidentally is in India ). Users are given a number of questions and choices to guide them through the process of selecting an ideal partner, if you like dating by numbers.

Once at the end of the selection process they are sent a MMS with a link to the candidates. Only at the end is the technology of the phones media capabilities called upon.

Marketers are seeing real value and growth with this type of 'engagement' as quiet simply, it works. The combination of a familiar technology with the enhancements the mobile phone offers, even in this limited capacity just goes to show maybe the developed markets may not be that developed after all.

  • India is second only to China with 600 million mobile users
  • More than a billion new mobile phones are sold each year
  • Mobile phone messaging (mostly SMS) is worth over 130 Billion dollars a year
  • There are 3 billion unique mobile phone subscribers

sources : Reuters /

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