Truecaller's competitor is now Indian Government 🤯
Classic example of how regulation could destroy monopolies.
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In the last 6 years, UPI was launched & wallet products (PayTm, PhonePe) had to pivot to UPI, loaded pre-paid cards were made invalid by RBI & Slice, Lazypay had to change their business model overnight. Now it’s time for the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) joining the cult.
Quick context 🗓
On November 18th, TRAI issued a press release titled “India to introduce new Truecaller-like caller ID in coming weeks”. This has challenged the TrueCaller monopoly of Caller ID for spam, fraud & more.
India accounts for 220 million of it’s 300 million worldwide TrueCaller user base.
So, what’s really happening?
TRAI “claims” that it will launch a mobile app that will show KYC-based names on users' phone displays, whenever they receive a call. It’s also working with telecom operators to solve for stringent KYC norms as well as back end integrations with it’s mobile app.
TRAI “claims” to launch the app in next 3 weeks ~ mid december’22.
I would say that’s faster deployment, if it happens.
Why the sudden move?
Not really. When Government of India banned certain mobile apps (remember PUBG?), it was serious about data localisation.
For the record, data localisation requires data about a nation's citizens to be collected, processed, and/or stored inside the country, often before being transferred internationally. Such data is usually transferred only after meeting local privacy/ data protection laws, such as giving the user notice of how the information will be used and obtaining their consent. - Wikipedia
Plus, this goes way back in november 2020 when the Joint Parliamentary Committee met several industry leaders such as Amazon, Google, Twitter, Facebook, PayTm, Reliance Jio, Ola, Uber & Bharti Airtel to discuss the nuances of the Data Protection Bill. Source
Seems like the government has taken matters in their own hand. It feels like TRAI wants more control and it has the power to create laws for telecom operators in India to give backdoor access to every type of user data, legally.
What’s TrueCaller saying?
The usual PR pitch - “We don't see TRAI’s proposed KYC-based caller ID mechanism as competitive service”. They seem to be driving the narrative of Truecaller is way more “Just a Caller-ID app”.
What does the future hold?
If history is any proof of what will happen in the future, few things may happen - with caveats).
First, the app might actually replace caller-ID apps.
Though it will depend on how well it solves for user’s switching cost effort (Truecaller → Government apps), the user interface being seamless, accuracy of the callerID data. To be honest, TrueCaller has spent 13 years figuring this piece out.
Second, act as a base layer to spam call fighting infrastructure.
This can only happen if, only if, TRAI decides to license this API to private players. Again, I don’t see TrueCaller getting any favours here but local Indian apps. Wink-Wink UPI apps.
Third, it will pass without any noise.
I don’t see this happening, mostly. The government seem determined to atleast build the base infrastructure, unsure of how the app would perform, and solve for spam & fraudulent call use case.
How this unfolds, time will tell.
That was the TrueCaller monopoly destroying story (possibly). But, it’s interesting how little internet products even think about regulation. We have seen this over and over again and it’s really important to diversify two things about your product. First, the use cases/ feature. Second, the kind of customers you serve. This won’t make the product disruption proof against regulation but will definitely give the flexibility to pivot if things do go sideways.
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