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Telemarketing Software: Phone Number Selling Rampant In India, Government Delays Regulations

May 11, 2011
By David Sims - Telemarketing Software Contributing Editor

Recently the Indian industry journal Mid-Day ran a piece on the selling of phone numbers, email IDs, residence and office addresses across the country.

Lhendup Bhutia, writing for Mid-Day, posed as the owner of a start-up company. The company offered him contact addresses of people in Mumbai or across India for a little over US $100 for 10.3 million phone numbers in Mumbai alone, or about $350 for 440 million phone numbers across India.

(Those numbers seem awfully big, yes. We’ll point out two things: First, this is India. Second, they were originally presented as 1.3 crore and 44 crore. “Crore” is a unit of counting in India we believe to be 10 million. We could have that wrong. The point, however, it that it’s a whole lot of phone numbers for a relative pittance. Anybody can buy them.)

India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority recently postponed -- for the fourth time -- guidelines to regulate rampant telemarketing, Bhutia writes. Obviously the government doesn’t think it’s a big enough problem, and just as obviously there are people whose interests are that it continue. As the article says, “the market is flooded with fly-by-night operations selling CDs of your phone numbers, email IDs and residence address.”

Bhutia talked to Ruchika Bajaj, who runs Bulk Email SMS India, a telemarketing firm based in KolkataI. It is only recently, she tells Bhutia, that phone numbers have been made available at dirt cheap rates and “with intense classifications of people from groups. Earlier it was difficult to come by these phone numbers. Nowadays, we have so many outlets to buy numbers from."

How easy is it to jump in this business? Last year Bajaj was a housewife. “When the company was launched, she bought databases from the gray market apart from other sources, which she refuses to disclose,” Bhutia says.

The data is obtained from “various outlets,” Bhutia says, “banks, telecom service providers, web listing services, restaurants, shopping centers, and just about any place where people leave their contact details."

And it’s primarily texting, not calling, that’s driven the market -- "Phone (News - Alert) calls are expensive," says Anil Prakash, president of Telecom Users Group India to Bhutia. "In comparison, SMSes are cheaper. Thus businesses that might find calling up customers unfeasible can now send lakhs of SMSes at a far cheaper rate."

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Juliana Kenny