Innoz, a company that offers mobile search, primarily through SMS, has raised series-A funding from Seedfund, in return of a minority stake. The exact amount of the funding has not been disclosed. Innoz offers an on demand search service on the short code, 55444. The service that started as SMSGyan, has now been rechristened as ’55444′, as it’s available on all major Indian telcos through the same short-code, according to the company. Innoz plans to focus on building this brand property further, going beyond the operator, and partnering with other players in the internet and mobile business, following the funding.
- Service offering – Innoz claims to offer more than 100 different services on the 55444 short-code platform across text search, deals, eating out, cricket scores, train time table, video and picture search and others, and has partnerships with Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha, Snapdeal, Justeat, DreamCricket and other players. Some of the services are region specific. According to Deepak Ravindran, CEO and co-founder of Innoz, the company is a good data mining platform for partners, since partners can convert queries to leads, and get insights. The service is offered as a pay per search service and a subscription based service. Innoz charges a non-premium rate of Re 1 per SMS query for pay per search and also offers weekly and monthly subscription plans with unlimited queries at Rs 30/month.
- Revenue & Monetization- According to Ravindran, the company clocked a revenue of Rs 6 crore in the last financial year, and that more than 50% of the company’s revenue comes from subscription. Although he did not reveal the exact revenue sharing arrangement between telcos and the company, he said that it depends on the operator and on the region, and differs for each operator. However, more than 80% traffic comes from Airtel, according to him.
- User base & active users – Innoz had launched on Airtel, and extended the service to all major mobile operators, last year. Ravindran informs that the service receives more than 1 million search queries in a day, adding up to 33 million to 35 million search queries in a month. The company offers subscription based and pay per query options to users. According to him, 3.5 million users subscribe to a monthly, or weekly plan, and more than 10 million users have accessed the service at least once.
- What about unsolicited activations by telcos? – Ravindran says that they don’t spam the customer, and activations are on the discretion of the customer. To substantiate the claim, he added* that on an average, each subscriber made 7-8 queries, in a month, and more than 70% of users are renewing the service, which according to him, is a lot more than 20% repeat renewals when the company had first launched the service.
- But isn’t mobile internet slowly replacing SMS? – Ravindran mentions that a large portion of mobile users don’t use mobile data, and rely on SMS for communication. He informed that the service got major traction from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, and more than 60% of its traffic comes from these cities. He also said that the service is complementing mobile internet, as Innoz also offers video and picture search, returning web links (URLs) of search results through SMS. He added that at times, users are not comfortable locating the mobile’s web browser and keying-in web URLs, and prefer SMS.
- Plans- The company also plans to offer an integrated caller ring back tone search and ringtone search service. It’s also in talks with Airtel to offer the search service under the primary bucket of its SIM toolkit, which will allow Airtel users to access the service without keying-in keywords. Innoz has also launched a 55444 appstore allowing partners to deploy keywords with static and dynamic responses on its channel. The service is currently in invite only mode for developers.
Nikhil adds: I’m quite surprised that the service received 1 million search queries in a day via SMS, and people actually pay Rs 30 per month for this: I’d heard of SMS Gyan earlier, and never thought it has a use case, so I guess I was wrong. This business might work in the short term, but with time, as the mobile Internet becomes more pervasive, I would expect Internet search to replace mobile search. I’m also quite skeptical of subscription based models on mobile VAS in general – telecom operators haven’t been very scrupulous in the past.
* we have made minor modifications for better clarity