India has 833.02 Million active mobile phone users as of December, 2014. Around 90% of mobile phones connections in India are prepaid. Giving a “missed call” is very common in India. Over the years, missed calls have been used by children to tell anxious parents that they have reached somewhere, to summon their drivers, or people to order food, receive cricket scores and bank balances and just about any other information or content.

Social Platforms companies like Facebook and Twitter are building large revenues in India by Missed Call Marketing. There is money in this business, which is why Twitter recently acquired Indian Company ZipDial and Facebook forged a partnership with Vivaconnect. It is a business that could be worth as $1 Billion of annual revenue, without putting a time frame to the estimate.

In 2013, Consumer Goods Company Hindustan Unilever Limited looked at ways to increase engagement with its consumers in Bihar and Jharkhand with Missed Call Marketing. The company sets up its own mobile radio channel along with a campaign to build awareness. Consumers to could give a missed call to a number and in return receive 20 minutes of free, on-demand content, ranging from Bollywood songs to popular Hindi entertainment. The campaign racked up calls from around 30 Million people, nearly 200 Million ad impressions and the consumption of around 500 Million minutes of content. That was the power of harnessing something as simple as Missed call.

State Bank of India and GlaxoSmithKline have also used Missed call marketing in India. It is an easy and cost-effective means for brands to reach out to a larger target audience, particularly in semi-urban and rural markets where Internet penetration is low. While most campaigns push information at consumers, Missed Call Marketing works the other way round. Companies in the business say a missed call marketing exercise could come as cheap as a few lakhs, and cost up to several crores depending on size and scale.

Missed calls phenomenon is already prevalent in Africa and Latin America, where it is called flashing or beeping. ZipDial, which has worked with Procter and Gamble India Ltd and Colgate Palmolive Ltd is optimistic about the reach and scale of Missed call Marketing. Twitter will be integrating ZipDial platform into its core platform to enrich the user experience. ZipDial mobile platform lets people follow and engage with content across all interfaces, SMS, voice and mobile web, and also facilitates offline consumption of content.

Facebook has integrated the tool into its interface for select campaigns. When a person sees an ad on Facebook, he or she can place a missed call by clicking on the ad from a mobile device. In return, the user receives content like music, cricket scores or celebrity messages, and a brand message from the advertiser. Still, companies need to realize that the missed call campaigns may not always generate high quality leads. As the tool matures, marketers need to find out what works for consumers. As users become pickier about the kind of content they wish to consume, brands will need to ask themselves why consumers would want to seek out their brand.