Regarding the six strike rule in TRAI’s SMS Spam regulations, it looks like a statistical anomaly, and it looks impossible to achieve. The six strike rule says that if there are six faults, the company will be blacklisted for two years. Technically, it looks like an impossible statistical average to achieve, irrespective of price. If someone sends 6 messages or someone sends 6 million, or 60 million or 60 billion, the resultant penalty is the same. The best processes in the world follow Six Sigma, which allows 3.4 defects per million. That is the kind of reliability that automobile companies or airlines or the best safety companies try and achieve. These guidelines are asking for compliance which is far beyond that, and most companies will not be able to achieve it.

Therefore a law has been articulated, which cannot be followed or achieved by anybody. It’s not a perfect world, and one can strive to have the best possible process, but if the process doesn’t allow any reasonable margin, depending on size and situation, then the process will get defeated because people will not be able to implement it.

A similar norm had been drafted by the TRAI earlier, where, irrespective of the size and the scale of the operator, the TRAI had fixed an absolute number, just like they have done for the six strike rule: that X number of inaccurate Know Your Customer (KYC) norms will be accepted, but beyond that there will be scrutiny and penalization of the operator, because that means that the operator is not following KYC norms.

In that case it was also statistically impossible because a smaller operator might be able to achieve that, but someone who has 30% marketshare cannot achieve that, because of the number of customer acquisitions, because it is a human, manual and technical – a combination of all the three processes – the defects per hundred will be dependent on your current base and the future acquisition. It will not be the same for a smaller player and a larger player. I think that the operators contested this in TDSAT, and they got a reprieve, because it didn’t sound logical to have an absolute number irrespective of your size.

One of the things that could have happened is to ask us to comply at least to six sigma compliance, and an audit can be done at the end of the month, which takes into account size, and is logical. An absolute number in terms of a six strike rule becomes self defeating in a particular way. The intent is right – to reduce consumer backlash, but because of one or two loose points in the regulation, the intent itself might get defeated. Even people who want to support the regulation may fall victim, because there is no way of achieving success. That’s the reason why people start finding alternatives and options and illegal practices to circumvent things which cannot be achieved. Laws have to be formed with pragmatism.

The other part is the limit of 100 SMS limit for consumers. If you send a few 100 SMS’ a day, what have we done to deserve being told that we can’t send more than 100 a day. This is a free country, and a democracy? Tomorrow they will come up with a rule that can’t have more than a 5 minute conversation.

What about server farms? Then I would say that the KYC norms are not being followed properly, because (If they were), people could be brought to book. To implement a law, you can’t completely ignoring brand interest, enterprise interest and consumer interest. What is the point of implementing a law that doesn’t take consumer interest into account? Tomorrow if you come up with a law that you can’t have more than a 5 minute conversation, is it good? This is a bad precedence to set. If I’m an enterprise and I have 20 people in my sales team, and I send them SMS’ in a group. I pay money to the operator, and they respond. There are many people like this, who communicate with their friends. You cannot ignore these trends.

To implement a law, you are putting more curbs on people, because you’re so scared about what is going to happen that to achieve another objective, you lose your own independence. Why should there be a 100 SMS limit? Why not figure out another technology or a legal way.

More than businesses, what I fundamentally don’t like about it is that it ignores the intelligent consumer. If you’ve subscribed to a weather alert or a mandi alert, you are entitled to do so. Do I tell clients who are providing information to farmers that I cannot support the messages, even if the farmers have registered for NDNC, just because their number is being added to NCPR.

If you’re getting it for free, it is your right to consume content, but it is also your right that you don’t get spammed. This law says that if you want to consume content then please come out of NDNC, and be open to receiving spam from everyone else. It states that either be in NCPR or don’t be in NCPR. Why is it that we’re a country of extremes? Why is it that none of this has happened anywhere in the world? It won’t succeed.

I want to ensure that spam is reduced in this country, but if you deliver the right intent in the wrong way, it won’t succeed.

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Editor’s Note: lest this view point appear too one sided, please note that this is by no means a justification of spam, but a critique of the severe limitations that TRAI’s SMS guidelines have placed, both on consumers and businesses.

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