Taking on-demand content to villages via mobiles

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | S UMAMAHESHWAR
Published Jul 5, 2016, 1:46 am IST
Updated Jul 5, 2016, 7:43 am IST
The idea behind setting up CallFree, is an attempt to reach out to the untouched rural market.
The users can dial any of eight toll free numbers depending on the content that he or she wants to listen to. (Representational image)
 The users can dial any of eight toll free numbers depending on the content that he or she wants to listen to. (Representational image)

Hyderabad: Gone are the days when people — at least literate and tech savvy people in urban areas — take time out to watch their programmes on television in real time. Even if they missed a programme, be it news or entertainment-based, they could just watch it on YouTube. No such facility, however, existed for semi literate or illiterate people or those living in areas which don’t have proper Internet coverage.

Collectively they form a huge untapped market for corporates said Sanjiv Gupta who with his team of four  set out to change this with their new on-demand region-based curated content provider, CallFree. Currently, CallFree runs eight genres — News, Cinema, Health, Astrology, Bhakti (Hindu devotional), Islamia (Quran devotional) Bible, CallFree easy English and entertainment with a local flavour. “All channels will be in regional languages. Each genre is headed by a genre producer, and supported by domain experts, content writers, voice-over artistes and audio engineers,” explained founder Sanjiv.

 

The idea behind setting up CallFree, he said is an attempt to reach out to the untouched rural market, which has huge potential yet is grossly under-served. “Rural India is a huge market. Those people have aspirations and spending power. But very few companies were able to reach out to them because either they don’t understand them or they don’t have the means to connect to them,” he explained. The company created its solutions using audio-based content, which is delivered through any basic phone -over- toll -free number. The users can dial any of eight toll free numbers depending on the content that he or she wants to listen to. “Typically, the content will be a two- or three-minute long audio capsule, which will be updated by CallFree every 10 minutes,” said the serial entrepreneur, who co-founded this company along with Neeraj Harlalka, Madhubhushi Raghavan and Krishna Babu.

Currently, the start-up is being run on pilot basis in four districts — two each in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and has been receiving around 12,000 calls a day. Based on the good response, the company, Mr Sanjiv said, has advanced its launch across four states in South India by the end of July. “Blueprint for the Hindi belt is also ready and the service will be launched within the next three months.”

Asked why he focused on creating content in four south Indian languages compared to Hindi, which alone can give huge volumes, Sanjiv said he is based in Hyderabad and wanted to try out the service in his home state. Apart from companies, the 55-year-old serial entrepreneur said his company offers huge opportunity to NGOs or governments to connect to their target audience. “Governments have so many programmes for rural people. But there is no proper medium to disseminate this information to them nor connect with the rural masses in a transparent and traceable manner. The only media available today to rural masses are All-India Radio, television, or newspapers. But all these are one-way media and the user cannot access information as and when he or she wants. The  internet on the other hand is a two way medium, but rural areas lack the bandwidth to access it. So CallFree can do what internet does. A farmer can access information when he is free at his field or a home-maker to get the info in her leisure.” The opportunity is huge; the task is daunting. But as CallFree’s tagline states ‘No Indian left behind’, Sanjiv is not intimidated and wants to spread to the remotest corner of the country.

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