Twitter acquires Indian mobile marketing start-up ZipDial for up to US$40m

20 Jan 2015

Twitter is understood to have spent between US$30m and US$40m to acquire Indian mobile marketing start-up ZipDial.

ZipDial gives marketers mobile numbers for use in marketing campaigns whereby they hang up before connecting but leave promotional text messages on the receiver’s phone.

The service is used in the world’s second biggest mobile market by brands such as IBM, KFC and Gilette.

The start-up, based in the Indian tech hub of Bangalore, said it was founded on the insight that consumers and brands in emerging markets behave differently and have different needs.

“We leveraged the ubiquitous behaviour of ‘missed calls’ between friends and applied it as an offline call-to-action for brand engagement. Additionally, prepaid recharge or top-up (money added to a user’s prepaid mobile account) is considered as valuable as currency in emerging markets.

“That became a foundation for our couponing and gratification products. Another central behaviour is the very frugal usage of mobile data. Users in India, for example, consume on average 60MB of data per month, only 4.5pc of the 1.38GB consumed each month by users in the US.”

Twitter wants to connect the developing world

Twitter is moving fast to engage with markets in the developing world, which as ZipDial pointed out, have different habits and trends than the developed world when it comes to technology.

The San Francisco, California-based social media company has collaborated with ZipDial on a range of marketing campaigns, including the Indian elections, MTV India’s Rock The Vote and various Bollywood film promotions.

“Over the next several years, billions of people will come online for the first time in countries like Brazil, India and Indonesia,” Twitter product VP Christian Oestlien said.

“For many, their first online experience will be on a mobile device – but the cost of data may prevent them from experiencing the true power of the internet. Twitter, in partnership with ZipDial, can make great content more accessible to everyone.”

ZipDial has built a mobile platform that lets people follow and engage with content across all interfaces. The user experience combines SMS, voice, mobile web, and access to mobile apps to bridge users from offline to online.

“For example, through ZipDial, it’s easy to engage with a publisher or brand by making a toll-free ‘missed call’ to a designated phone number. The caller will then begin receiving inbound content and further engagement on their phone in real-time through voice, SMS or an app notification.

“These interactions are especially appealing in areas where people aren’t always connected to data or only access data through intermittent Wi-Fi networks,” Oestlien said.

Mobile user in India image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years