Pragya Misra Mehrishi, director of public affairs, India at Truecaller, on the company’s plans and strategy for India, its biggest market globally.
Fifty percent of Truecaller’s user base in India is women and the country accounts for 73 percent of total users in the world. Considering the gender divide and access to digital tools or even mobile phones in our country, this is fairly interesting, says Pragya Misra Mehrishi, director of public affairs, India at Truecaller, while highlighting a slew of women-centric features and initiatives launched by the company.
The Swedish company recently revealed that it has grown by 50 million monthly active users over the last year and that India continues to remain its largest market. On the heels of this announcement the company also unveiled ‘Truecaller Version 12' that features an all-new redesign with a host of user-focussed enhancements. The features will be gradually rolled out for all Android users in India in the coming weeks, with several other countries soon to follow. No doubt India is the most important market for the brand.
Storyboard18 caught up with Mehrishi to find out more about Truecaller’s plans and strategy for the Indian market, and approach to user safety and privacy.
You have launched a raft of new features such as Video Caller ID, Ghost call, opened up voice recording to all in the new Truecaller Version 12. Can you tell us about these new features and the kind of demand and excitement around these in the Indian market?
Our primary goal has been to simplify the navigation within the app. We have decoupled calling with the messaging tabs. We heard feedback that users were finding it extremely cluttered. This was a good step forward in cleaning our UI and making it easier for users to navigate around our app. Secondly, Video Caller ID is a really fun feature that allows you to send a short video that plays automatically when your friends and family call you. We wanted to make the calling experience interactive. Imagine next time you call your mother on her birthday as the call hits her phone you have a video playing of you with a banner wishing her a ‘Happy Birthday’ with your family around and she can watch that video even before she picks up the phone.
The other feature that I am personally very excited about is call recording and the reason why I feel strongly about it is because it can play a crucial role in women’s safety and more broadly driving safe communication. Currently, when women or anyone vulnerable reports a case of online harassment they are unable to back it up with any sort of evidence. In this case, the person can literally start recording the conversation if they feel that they are in a sensitive situation or could be a victim of bad behaviour.
Truecaller has been running a number of initiatives around women safety including your #ItsNotOk campaign. How have they panned out?
Nearly 50 percent of our user base is women. Considering the gender divide and access to digital tools or even mobile phones in our country, this is fairly interesting. If you look at Tier 2-3 markets in India, most people have shared devices and shared mobile phones and it is really not necessarily owned by one person. You have one phone - the child uses it for online education, the father uses it for his business and then you have many more women now using the phone for many other functions including running small businesses out of their homes. Therefore, Truecaller becomes their first line of defence when it comes to fighting harassment and also navigating unwanted communication from unknown numbers.
Over the past five years, we have had a lot of success in rolling out this campaign and we have done a lot in bringing this conversation to the forefront. Though five years is a short time to solve any problem and this is a very complex issue, which has many stakeholders engaged. We want to do our bit in bringing this conversation to the forefront and having many more people create awareness not only when it comes to digital platforms but also civil society, government, and women themselves who have faced this issue.
Financial and money-related scams have been rampant over the past two years of the pandemic. What are the efforts taken by Truecaller to avert these?
Reports that we read from the RBI or Home Ministry say that financial fraud has been at an all-time high. But, I would say that the power of community should never be underestimated. We rely on users to actively report on the platform so that all our users can remain protected. And this crowd-sourcing really helps the community to stay safe as a whole. Along with that, we have machine learning and algorithms which are becoming more sophisticated as time goes by and many more data points are being collected to ensure that when you have scammers and fraudsters reaching out to you, that the number of these messages are automatically moved into your spam inbox if you are using Truecaller as your default.
In addition to this, we work with the Ministry of Home and the Cybercrime Division during this time to make sure that the number against which there was already a formal complaint filed, we can actually go ahead and mark those numbers as “Covid Fraud’.
Most of the big tech companies the world over have been questioned about data privacy. What are the steps taken by Truecaller in safeguarding the privacy of its users?
Our app is built in a way where we do follow data minimisation principles and we only take as much data as we need to run the service. In addition to that, we want to iterate that Truecaller has gone ahead and data localised in India. It means that all of the data of Indian users basically resides in India. This is a proactive measure that we took since India is our most important market. As we evolve as a company, we are also trying to put in place how we can think about privacy by design principles and make sure that even with newer features that we roll out, privacy is at the core of every feature because that is particularly important.
I know that there are many myths about Truecaller collecting information or user data. If you have downloaded Truecaller from Playstore or Apple store, you would know that we have no access to phonebook data. We don’t collect that or store it anywhere. That will be a violation of privacy. While we may use that information or have access like any other application that uses your phonebook information to create a far more sophisticated experience for you. But it is not like the data is stored somewhere on our servers and we are constantly using it.
(Edited by : Bivekananda Biswas)