Small.Business.Marketing

New marketing demystified for Indian SMEs

When the private sector behaves like the government

For the last week, I am engaged in an activity which is plain draining.

We have an online CRM software; Saleswah CRM and we are about to launch another service (Leadzgenie lead management software) and we are scouting for a SMS vendor who will provide an API so that our software can send SMS alerts to registered users, fully opted-in from other fellow-registered users.

For example: a call comes in for you, the sales executive and the receptionist takes it. You are out of office. Or, even better, the receptionist gets a call which she does not know who to transfer to.

Our vision is that she should be able to log a call in our software- the name of the person calling and his contact details and some bare facts of what he needed and then the software should send the details on SMS to the most appropriate person.

Since we do not have the SMS gateways etc; we thought of integrating with a 3rd party. We started our search on the web and we were spoilt for choice. Really; SMS sending seems to be the preferred business choice for everyone today! And, many of them have pretty nice and sophisticated websites: chat, helpdesk etc. Even on those without chat agents, a query left on their websites were almost without fail returned within 10 minutes.

That’s when the fun really started.

Every company started with the premise that we are wanting to do SMS blasts to people. Even when we clearly explained, showed our workflow offered them the demo of our website and application, showed our privacy statement and terms of use, the “ice would not melt”.

They wanted us to fill up an application every company had a completely different version.  One site would not even send us a quote before we filled up the form and send it back to them. At least one party wanted us to sign a legal document on stamp paper which basically said that we would get 2 hours to respond to any complaint and failure to satisfactorily respond would mean that we would be required to pay Thousands of rupees in fine (starting with Rs 25,000/-).

This is mad! When pressed, everyone points to this TRAI website. But, what I am unable to understand is why is the information need vastly different with different vendor? (One guy wanted to know whether I am married or not. What am I supposed to say, what is the answer that will get me the license? Is being married the right answer? Or does the TRAI prefer bachelors?)

It is simple. All we are looking to do is that people who register with us are able to send SMS to a closed user group; based on their own business needs. For example, if your boss assigns some job to you, you should get a notification on SMS. Our software does not facilitate mass SMS; it does not enable sending even one SMS to your customers. So, what is the problem?

I can only assume it is fear. The backlash against the spam SMS has forced TRAI to react and enact stringent penalties; and all these vendors are now running scared.

I am happy the spammers are getting their just deserts. But, what gets my goat is the reliance even insistence on paperwork, forms whose need is not spelt out. I have trawled through the TRAI website; in vain, looking for clues about what kind of guarantee they are seeking. Having failed, I can only assume that everyone is doing his own thing and trying to pass on the buck.

Oh, yes. You are going to love this one. A vendor even wanted me to get every user who registers on the website to sign a paper document indemnifying us and him and fax him a copy. Failing which, “His consent can be taken online, but, make sure we are sent complete details of every mobile number registered on your site”. A ha! So that he can start spamming them, presumably and blame it on us?

Wonders never cease. It’s a wonder we manage to get any work done at all.

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