I had just been dropped off in front of the Grand Chola Hotel in Chennai where I was meeting an old friend for lunch. The driver, whom I had arranged through a cousin, was clearly tech savvy. He had initially suggested that I Whatsapp him when I was ready to be picked up. When I sheepishly told him that my international data roaming was turned off, he seemed to reassess me – perhaps as someone not worthy of being dropped off at a high-end hotel shown in the picture here.
The confusion must have shown on my face.
“Just call my number and hang up after two or three things” he explained patiently.
Then I got it!
He simply wanted to know when I was ready to be picked up. For that, he did not need to talk to me.
“People talking without speaking!” Simon and Garfunkel would be proud.
It is difficult to understand the reasons behind the popularity of the “missed call” as a tool for communication in certain parts of the world. Could it be that every call is a toll call, and people are trying to avoid the charges?
Perhaps it has to do with some hierarchical communication.
Most of the missed calls appeared to be directed at someone who is waiting for the call – a calling bell for attention. Case in point is my call to the driver.
That theory quickly came unravelled when I saw an ad on TV asking viewers to give the company a missed call to buy their product. So the missed call was not just a tool for the cost conscious consumer. It was being used as a marketing tool to drive leads for the company.
A win-win for everyone!
A little bit more digging showed me that I was not up-to-date on communication trends in India. ZipDial, an Indian company that has built a business around the “missed call app,” was recently acquired by none other than Twitter for a guesstimated $30 million.
The missed call as a communication tool is up there along with other forms of mobile communications – SMS, Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc. Everyone seems to be using it, irrespective of their financial situation.
As we wrapped up lunch and made plans to meet up later on in the evening, I asked my friend if she would call me to let me know when she was done.
“Sure, I‘ll give you a missed call,” she said matter-of-factly.
The power of the missed call…