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Times Internet (Indiatimes) claims to have launched India’s first “Mobile Voice” service; by the looks of it, it’s a voice portal service using their short code 58888, given a new name. We reconfirmed from Times Internet – the voice portal service from the company is not new.
What’s new?: both SMS services and Voice services are available on the same number – 58888. Other voice portal services are operator specific, or have different numbers for dialing in from different operators. For example: for STAR 57827, the SMS services are available via 57827, while the voice portal is at 50-57827 for private operators, and different for BSNL. DMCL (ZEE Group) has the following numbers for their voice portal Suno Zee: 1255675 for BSNL, 560675 for Airtel (didn’t work) and 57575 for Reliance. As a consumer, you really shouldn’t be expected to remember different numbers for different types of services, and maybe this move from Indiatimes will make other companies follow suit. Indiatimes is also launching a marketing campaign to boost usage – remember, voice portals are big money.
The content: Mostly content from Times properties – Radio Mirchi, Filmfare, Zoom, ET, Contests, Astrology, news from Times of India and the Economic Times. They’re also pushing ringtone downloads. The portal is currently available in English and Hindi languages, and they plan to launch the service in Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil.
Trying it out: It took me six attempts to finally connect to 58888 – the number was busy, and I wonder if they’ve put in enough lines. Also, since they’re advertising the service in the Times of India (print) as well, I wonder if there’s a surge in calls in the morning. Maybe they should gun for peak traffic time (dominated by Radio) or prime time (TV). One difference that I noticed between 58888 and STAR 57827 – I had to press a number of buttons to navigate the menu, while the latter had a voice recognition software in place, and was hence less cumbersome.
Update: Dr. Mo, in the comments to this post, rightly identifies one of the issues with voice recognition driven IVRL menus: “Voice recognition (onmobile) and DTMF(spice/cellebrum) debate will go on. DTMF have less issues when navigating and does not need to wait till all the prompts are done…” He adds that users often need to spend more time navigating through voice recognition powered portals, which helps increase revenues (since the calls are charged a premium).