Fastest growing social network on the planet
So which one is it?
The answer might be : SMS Gupshup. (Did I hear you ask “come again?”). Yes. Not tencent QQ or Xiaonei. Not Facebook and not Twitter either. It is this India based, relatively less buzz bearing service- SMS gupshup.(‘Gup’ as in ‘cup’. Ditto for ‘shup’. Means ‘chit-chat’ in Hindi)
Now, I knew about this service since a long time- and haven’t used it myself, (doesn’t work outside India me thinks) but this has been generating some buzz since some time.
I had heard about this service from within the social media circle and then with a few tweets from Robert Scoble. But resisted the temptation of writing about it- thinking it was another one of those services that the social media types latch on to before it even stabilizes.
To my rather happy surprise (I love it when this happens in the Asian entrepreneurial circles) it sustained the hype over the past few months and seems to be growing strong.
But what prompted me to write about this service was an interview of the CEO Beerud Sheth (So what’s his nickname- Beer?) – with Mike Arrington at Techcrunch. Frankly, it sounds more like a grilling session. But Sheth knows his stuff. Arrington gets pushy in his interviews- sometimes on the verge of being offensive. At one time when Sheth was a bit perturbed with the background noise, Mike says ” We don’t edit the stuff here- takes too much time. So SPEAK UP.” Really- it almost came across that Mike was doing a favor to Sheth by taking that interview. All the cross questioning and reconfirmations were OK- quite insightful actually- but this comment and the overall tone of the questioning was a little intimidating, probably by design.
Sheth takes this in his stride, comes back with some solid answers to probably some very private nature questions (What is the Cost SMS to the telcos?). We are used to seeing flamboyant, very vocal and even theatrical guys from valley start ups. But this was different. Calm, diplomatic and yet with good insights- there are more lessons to be learnt there than just Social Networking.
Now incidentally SMS gupshup has had more growth than Twitter over the last one year, had about the same number of users (till recently but over the past 2-3 months Twitter seems to have come back with phenomenal growth – so it is 20 million users @ SMS Gupshup as against abt 32 million Twitter as of May 2009)- gets pots of funding and has a revenue model. But let us see where it goes from here.
The “fastest growing” tag on the internet is quite transient- but one thing is for sure- What we need is more such entrepreneurs from Asia.
On that, a quick Look at WW stars and their Unique Users (Via techcrunch):
- LinkedIn: 16 million (Incidentally a lot of LinkedIn’s usage is from India also)
- Digg: 23 million
- Twitter: 32 million (In Feb 2009, they were 10 million uniques- so this post should actually say “fastest growing year on year”- though even SMS Gupshup seemed to have grown 100% over a few months)
- Facebook: 200 million unique (is that a monster or what)
And what this does bring to the fore is some interesting realizations for mobile based social networks-
- With SMS and voice still ruling the roost over the mobile phone services ecosystem, (not to mention that the services are OS and handset independent), SMS is still a potent message delivery vehicle
- SMS based advertising has seen growth in the past, and in the future, with services like this, could be scaled up to be more targeted- from contextual to behavioral to semantic to a mix of all of these with location/demographic/time targeting.