Full Report: SMS in India – how, what & why


With the advent of Smartphones, everyone today is talking about Internet on mobiles, 3G speeds etc etc. However, SMS, a traditional short message service on mobile, even today is pretty much the most frequently used feature after calling..errr even more than calling.

yes, thats true, majority of Indian population, especially younger crowd, uses SMS more than calling. Even professionals use it for myriad of reasons, including checking bank balances, mobile bills, and status of train/flight etc.

Recent TRAI data shows that Indians are using SMS as an extension of their lives more and more every year, an average Indian sends 29 SMS per month. Just multiply that with number of ever growing Mobile subscribers in India and you will have an idea of amount of SMS traffic India generates!

Following report looks at SMS as a value added service, a marketing tool, advertising medium, a mode of getting consumers involved.


SMS VAS in India – Highlights

  • SMS VAS is the highest revenue earning Value Added Service with almost 5% revenue earned by service providers
  • 1 in 5 urban Indians have used a SMS based VAS service either as a one-off or on subscription basis.
  • SMS is an effective marketing tool, showing conversion rates a lot higher than other conventional mediums i.e. TV/Radio etc. 1 in 3 Urban Indian has acted in some manner over the SMS i.e. forwarding to others or enquiring about it.
  • SMS, an advertising medium, has an interaction rate of around 5%
  • 25% Indians have participated in some sort of SMS contest

Which city uses maximum SMS VAS services?


Delhites seem to be on top here as well, In our previous mobile report, Delhites were at top as well with maximum usage of social networking on Mobile. Mumbai & Chennai come second with 5% usage each.

Which is the most popular SMS VAS service in India?

SMS-VAS-Usage-urban-indians Jokes is the most popular SMS VAS service with 53% of Indian mobile users subscribing to it. Astrology is second most popular SMS VAS service (47%) followed by News alerts (44%) and Jobs (43%).

To me, sports SMS VAS service is a big surprise with around 42% people subscribing to it – or may be not – I think 99% of this would be cricket updates.

Which gender uses which SMS VAS services and for what?


Males are generally more active users of SMS VAS services compared to their counterparts. While males are more interested in getting sports updates (63%) females are interested in spiritual (52.1%) and astrology (50.3%)quotes.

Age wise Distribution of SMS VAS services


This is an interesting chart. Jokes are popular amongst people between 18 to 44 years of age.

Astrology is more popular in 45yrs to 54 yrs age group while 56.7% of people with age 55 yrs. and more subscribe to stocks/finance & business.

Close to half of all people aged 55yrs and above also subscribe to jobs. Thats actually a big surprise to me.

Conventional wisdom suggests that by that age, people are pretty satisfied with what they are doing and may not look for new opportunities – but figures suggest otherwise.

How is SMS as a Marketing Tool?


SMS is increasingly being viewed by India Inc. as a source of getting in touch with their customers. This is evident from the fact that every second urban Indian acknowledged receiving marketing/promotional SMS on their phone in quarter ending May 2009.

The intensity of using SMS for marketing/promotions is quite high with almost 75% receiving a minimum of 4 such SMS.

What do companies market to subscribers via SMS?

SMS-VAS-marketing-tool-company-usageSMS as a marketing tool is most frequently used (37%) to attract customers in buying ringtones, wallpapers & games.

Second most popular where SMS is used for marketing are entertainment products (36.3%) followed by financial products (33.6%)

How effective is SMS as a Marketing Tool?


1 in 3 (approx. 32%) of Urban Indians who receive a marketing/promotional SMS took some action, while 2 out 3 deleted or ignore the message completely.

Calling up to enquire (if number available) followed by forwarding message to others are the two most commonly cited actions taken on receipt of marketing/promotional SMS.

11% also indicated they made a purchase on the basis of information. received via SMS.

Gender Wise SMS marketing Effectiveness


Females are less likely to ignore and/or delete the message compared to males and are more likely to enquire further i.e. by calling up customer service or walking into the store.

However, males are more involved when it comes to using the coupons/discounts offered in SMS.

Age Wise SMS marketing Effectiveness


SMS marketing is most effective to people aged between 35 to 44 years old as more than 33.5% of them made a purchase of product or service based on the SMS marketing !

SMS as an Advertising Medium


8.4% of the urban Indians, approx 22 million have seen an ad in a SMS they have received, while 65% of those who have seen have also read the advertisement message.

Such high level of awareness indicates the importance of this medium for advertising.

Other Usages of SMS in India

  • 2% of urban Indians, approx 6 million have used SMS to get directions
  • 7% have used SMS to get reminders for upcoming bill payments
  • SMS was used as a tool for getting in touch with population by almost all national and regional political parties in recently concluded federal elections.
  • 10% of urban Indians received SMS message(s) from one or more political parties.

Note: The report is analyzed using mobile service usage data for March 2009 to May 2009 time frame. 5,959 respondents were interviewed and their data projected to Urban Indian population owning a mobile phone, approx 271 million. Margin of error is 1.27%.

This report has been put together by www.vitalanalytics.in. Please contact us for any further details or questions that you may have on this reports. You can also discuss the report by way of comments.

If you have liked this, you may also be interested in How & What Mobile Phone Services does India use – Report

  1. Divya says

    SMS can be used in many ways like to Semd Bank OTP, auth, alerts,reminders etc

  2. Chirag says

    With the latest TRIA usage guidelines these figures must have drastically gone down.

  3. Ankan Kd says

    SMS could be the singe most important invention after the mobile phone…

  4. Bhargava Teja says

    It is quite interesting and useful such as those academics who are deeply involved in that area.
    Can I get the updated information along with 2008 for comparitive study which would be acknowledged gratefully.
    Bhargava Teja
    Management Consultant

  5. Sojan says

    Great article, teens are using SMS widely.

  6. Raj says

    yes sms rocks, useful even when could not connect to other person

  7. Ifham khan says

    Good information thanks for the share buddy

  8. Heena Kauser says

    The Dates given were outside ARP.

  9. deepanjali says

    very nice and valuable report… it gives out some really imp insights of the telecom sector and its usage pattern.

  10. Mihir Naik says

    Great Collection of information…. thanks for giving us this all information so much handy

  11. Mihir Naik says

    good collection of facts… and thanks for giving such information…

    trak.in rocks………

  12. Sachin Rathee says

    Fabulous Reports along with facts & figure i liked it

  13. Pradeep says

    No mention for Education.. Don’t people use SMS for education related stuff?

  14. Rainheart says

    nobody can beat the Philippines in terms of SMS.

  15. Gopula Venkatesh says

    its been terrific stats about sms in india

    thanks for collection

  16. Used Vehicles says

    Interesting to read about sms usage in India. I think in India sms rates are cheap compared to other countries.

  17. deepa says

    Wonderful Report…….. thank you

  18. r.v.jayaraman says

    Thanks for interesting things about SMS. Telecom operators earn more revenue from SMS what they are not entitled for. TRAI is seriously lowering of SMS charges .If it done, there will be more users of SMS.

  19. Rahul says

    Nice report…quite comprehensive. Thanks for sharing this.

  20. darpan says

    hey really nice report grt job ..can u tell me where did u find this kind of report .. Actually m doin a project on analysis of telecom industry

  21. balamurali says

    nice report shell i know which provider wanted all guyes

  22. Anamika says

    I like the way this article is presented,really effective.I am sorry to say but I personally hate the advertisements i get,infact every day 2-10 msgs,I am fed up!

  23. techie says


    Nice report with lot of useful data.

    Anyone cares about SMS privacy? If yes, they can download the free J2ME apps from



    1. Aniketh says

      Do you have a symbian app so that i can block advertisements sent to my phone. DND registry still sucks after a year of registration!

  24. Abhishek Vyas says

    hi my name is Abhishek Vyas and i’m working to create two websites for the community in my area…..one is for jobs in aviation and other is for dating……what i want to know from you is if you can help me in finding out WHICH companies provide these CONTEST SMS facility so that my website and the cellular company both can make profit ?

  25. Bina says

    The above reports looks good, need to make sure how much reliable is this report?


  26. brijesh says

    Nice comprehensive and elucidated report. Some stats are startling indeed.

  27. Sushil says

    Amazing reports and great collection of facts
    From where u get such kind of data?

  28. VJ says

    SMS, an advertising medium, has an interaction rate of around 5%–seriously? hmm…smsgupshup,mytodaysms all have been complaining about the ineffective adverisements using SMS.
    Maybe the advertisement mentioned in the report refer to the generic SPAM type ads rather than ads attached to content ?


  29. Ajay Agrawal says

    Jokes is the most popular SMS VAS service with 53% of Indian mobile users subscribing to it. Interesting…..

  30. Amit Paranjape says

    Great report. Quite interesting data. Didn’t realize that 1 in 5 have used value added services!


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

who's online