Dec 11, 2009

Announcing mQuote - Stock Quotes on your mobile phone

A lot of people do not invest in shares. But those who do invariably end up checking their stock prices atleast once daily. No I am not talking about a day trader, but someone who just owns Infy shares because a lot of his friends asked him to buy it in the recession. Since then he has not bought any other share, but still keeps checking the price of Infy share daily and smiles within.
In my opinion after mail checking, stock price must be the second most religiously performed activity for us. No Twitter, you are too early in the game. Even though the price most often does not change drastically day to day, there is this unexplained desire to see what the current price is.

It gets worse when you know that the market is choppy on a given day and for some reason your boss has put you on a day long workshop where you are just not able to check your stock price. Or when you are on your vacation and your wife has imposed a strict no mail checking rule on you. What do you do? Wonder if you could just check that stock price on your mobile phone? You can now.

For all those obsessive stock price tracker I present mQuote. mQuote is a SMS based service which provides you real time price of your stock on your mobile. Just SMS quote <company code> or quote <company name> to 9220092200 or 9243000111. And instantly you will receive the current price of that share. The website, provides a demo so you can test it out and feel comfortable using it.

As usual this is one of a hobby thing I did and so maybe quite buggy. I do not take responsibility for the information being provided by this service. Don't hedge your bets based on the information provided by this service. Do use a reliable source of information in case you want to trade a scrip.

Note: 9220092200 is a mumbai local number, and 9243000111 is bangalore local number. From any other location you will have to prefix 0, and it will a STD SMS charge for you.

Nov 30, 2009

Reliance Takes the First Shot

Last week I blogged about how the mobile operators price war is going to move to the SMS turf soon. Today I was pleasantly surprised at Reliance Communications advertisement about SMS tariff of 1 paise per SMS.

This is actually a BIG news for my application SmsTweet. So far only Airtel is the exclusive provider of Twitter services on mobile phones through SMS. Even for Airtel users though it costs them one rupee to send a Tweet. SmsTweet on the other hand uses a 10 digit long number (9220092200 - local to Mumbai and recently 9243000111 - local to Bangalore). This ensures that you can send a Tweet from any mobile provider at your regular SMS charges. For most of the users it either means a local (1 rupee) or a STD (1.5 rupees) charge.

Now since Reliance has dropped its SMS rates to 1 paise, it means that you can use SmsTweet to send your Tweets at just 1 paise. That is way cheaper than Twitter's exclusive provider. So what are you waiting for Reliance subscribers. Go ahead and tweet through your mobile phone.

Nov 23, 2009

SMS - Telecos next Turf for Price War

Looks like while every one was fighting to cut the price per voice call, no one realised how costly sending a SMS became in comparison to a voice call is. About 10 years ago, when mobile operations began in India even incoming mobile calls were charged. And today both the price as well as duration for payment has hit measurable limits (1 paise per second). But even in this tumultuous time, the price per SMS had just remained the same. one rupee per sms.

But if todays article in Times of India (SMS Prices set to crash) is to be believed, the fight between the operators will soon shift from voice to sms. After all SMS is the second most used service after a voice call. It would have been anybody's guess that SMS prices are going to crash next. In fact the recent unilateral SMS interconnect charges imposed by Airtel would have been a direct cue to TRAI to wakeup and regulate this medium. Moreover the lobby of SMS aggregators was gaining momentum to bring some order here.

I find that article in Times of India quite funny though. Times of India, in its typical style of saving the world, expounds on how it exposed the obnoxious price of a SMS to the world. Having seen its report, how TRAI jumped into action and is going to bring out a regulation as soon as it could. The description of measuring the cost of a SMS by its data size and time to transmit over the network makes the article only funnier.

Humor aside, I think this news should be a respite to all those companies providing services around SMS'es. The cost of an Application sending a SMS to user was fairly low. As a result we saw a lot of innovative applications such as mobile alerts, advertisements on mobile, emails on mobile etc being born. But the problem was that the communication was usually only one sided. However, if the price of SMS sent by user also drops, it will create space for more feature rich interactive applications.

I can definitely see more people using the SmsTweet application (updating twitter status by sending sms) if the price per sms drops. I can make it more interactive by letting users download their friend's status on their mobile phone.

What is your opinion? any nice ideas around SMS?

(Picture Credit:

Nov 5, 2009

SMS Interconnect Charges - A blow to A2P Service Providers

India enjoys the cheapest call rates on mobile phone available in the world. It has helped India enter the mobile revolution skipping the internet revolution (in one sense). This huge penetration of mobile phones in Indian market prompted a lot of companies to mushroom providing services around mobile phones. One such segment were services around bulk sms'es. But soon this segment is going to be hit badly.

SMS are sent either from a person's mobile phone (P2P) or through an Application (A2P). While SMS sent by a person costs 1 Rupee, SMS sent by an application costs way less. Once you get access to these SMS gateways (which is not trivial), you can send out the sms'es at virtually 0 paise. Huge upfront charges though introduces a barrier to smaller players. But that opens up gates for resellers, who buy SMS credits in bulk from these providers and sell it to more smaller players. Thus evolved an ecosystem of advertisers reaching out to people at low cost, political parties running their campaign on sms, A2P providers, resellers and even smart applications around sms'es.

This was possible because the cost of transferring a SMS from an application to end user was close to 0 paise. There was no interconnect charges between telecos to handle sms originating from one teleco and terminating on another one. Recently though Airtel signed a deal with Tata Teleservices and other telecos wherin telecos will pay 15 paise per sms terminating on Airtel's network. Today Tata Teleservices is market leader in providing bulk smses and Airtel is well leader in number of mobile connections (more that 30%). This virtually means that the 0 paise/sms which was possible till now has suddenly become 15p.

Yes, this move by Airtel (and soon to be followed by other telecos) is going to affect the A2P service market quite adversely. Interconnect charges are required so that the terminating teleco also make some money in handling the sms. This is the same reason why interconnect charges were introduced in voice calls when GSM service providers stopped handling calls from CDMA networks. Moreover it provides a cost barrier for players to enter this field. 'Free SMS to India' will no longer be possible now.

But Ideally TRAI should have regularized this charge after carefully studying the volumes in this market and evaluating the effect of such a charge on end consumer. This move by Airtel is clearly aimed at increasing its revenue in short term and getting back its lost share of A2P market in the longer term. Only Airtel will not be able to provide sms delivery to Airtel mobile phone at close to 0 paise. Airtel being a leader in number of connections will soon attract A2P players from other telecos.

Consumers also will be affected by this move albeit indirectly. Banks, airlines and other institutions are already crying foul on this move. They were able to send real time free alerts to its vast user base because the charges were quite low. But now with the interconnect charges it is going to severely increase their expenses. Other companies such as and which provide email delivery to your mobile phone over sms are also going to be hit badly.

I hope TRAI realizes the gravity of this situation and intervenes immediately before it affects this whole industry in general.

[This article appeared in in the guest column]

Oct 24, 2009

Twitter, SMSGupshup and the Power of SMS [Indian Mobile Revolution]

Twitter today is by far the fastest growing company that we have seen in recent times. The rate at which it has grown this year alone has stumped all analysts. Twitter does not publish the number of users it has, but if this article from Techcrunch is to be believed, Twitter had 50 million users this September. If this hockey stick kind of growth was not enough, an internal leaked document published by Techcrunch took everyone by surprise. Twitter is planning to add a billion users by 2013. Just for the perspective, a billion today is one sixth the world's population. Now I am sure that the number of 'active' Twitter users is way low and there is a lot of skepticism on it reaching the billion user base but we cannot deny the fact that the Twitter train is hurtling down at break neck speed. And to achieve that kind of growth, you need to have a strong vision. In Twitter's case the vision being to reach out to a billion people.

It is in this context that India is so important to Twitter. India has seen a near similar Twitter kind of growth in terms of number of mobile connections. India today has about 400 million mobile connections and according to this article by it will add another 370 million mobile connections by 2013. Again the figures are no doubt inflated according to a recent government report, but you cannot disagree that India is having a mobile revolution. Mobile phones have fast reached even those areas where you don't even have a television, forget broadband. A recent TV advertisement about a mobile phone where people visit the nearby town to get their mobile phones charged is a true indication of this immense growth story.

India with its billion population and one of the fastest growing mobile phone market is a perfect place for Twitter to realize it's visionary growth. Providing a simple SMS interface to its service will ensure that it has the scope of reaching out to every individual having a mobile phone. Earlier tweeting through your mobile phone was a 'value added service' and it would cost the user Rs 3/- for each tweet sent. But with a recent agreement with Airtel, this service will be provided at regular SMS cost. Though the deal is exclusive for a limited period, soon other carriers will start offering the same service.

Infact Smsgupshup is another company which started around the same time as Twitter and was targeted specifically for India. According to Sraman Mitra Smsgupshup started in 2004 has about 22 million users today. And since Smsgupshup operates in India, this is number of users only in India. Compare this to the inflated worldwide figure of 50 million Twitter users worldwide. In June 2008 Anand Rajaraman wrote in how Smsgupshup was bigger than twitter back then. That claim may still be true today, But definitely the gap has reduced in the last one year. Celebrities and evangelists in India adopted Twitter instead of Smsgupshup and fueled it's growth just as @Oprah and @aplusk helped in Twitter's growth in the west.

I wouldn't really say that Twitter is more successful than Smsgupshup. If you talk about growth, clearly in the last one year we have seen Twitter grow immensely. If you talk about profitability though, Twitter will take years to be profitable and it does not have a way to make money today. Smsgupshup on the other hand seems to be generating decent revenue. In an interview at Techcrunch, CEO of Smsgupshup Beerud Sheth claims that it is generating revenue of $150,000/month and growing. Sometime next year they are aiming to break even. Infact to run a majority of your business on the web is clearly cheaper than to run it on pure mobile phones at the same scale. Smsgupshup sends out about 400 million messages per month or about 5 billion messages a year. Even if it costs them one paise to send out a SMS, they must be leaking about Rs 8 crores a year. Hence for Smsgupshup it is really important to break even it's costs first before trying to grow exponentially.

But in terms of popularity clearly Twitter scores over Smsgupshup. Other than the adoption by famous celebrities, Twitter's growth has been attributed to it's open APIs. A lot of people have created thousands of applications and use cases around Twitter just by using it's API. A lot of people use Twitter not through their web interface, but through one of many Twitter clients that they feel comfortable with. That really helped in Twitter's growth. Though Smsgupshup announced it's application development platform, access is not as simple as Twitter's. You need to get in touch with someone in Smsgupshup to get it.

I used Smsgupshup's platform to develop a small mash-up called SmsTweet which lets users tweet using their mobile phone. The message is sent to a 10 digit phone number, hence the cost of the sms is just one rupee. Essentially these APIs help you access data over internet through your mobile phone using just a SMS. This simple concept can widely be used in various scenarios. Fleet management companies can use this to ask their truck drivers to update their location every hour, which they can then track on their dashboards. Users can search for and get contact details of a restaurant they want to visit on their mobile phones. Compare price of a product in various stores standing in a particular store.

In conclusion, I personally believe that in India there is immense scope for developing a product using only SMS. If companies like Smsgupshup promote and support their platform and more such companies provide similar platforms, it will provide a good opportunity to developers in India to come up with simple usable product in their areas.

[This article was contributed to -Twitter, SMSGupshup and the Power of SMS [Indian Mobile Revolution]]

Oct 15, 2009

Watch out Bharti Airtel, Here comes SmsTweets

Mobile Phones in India
Today morning I woke up to this wonderful news at twitter's blog - Hello Bharti Airtel. I was quite excited about it as we now have a (cheap) way of sending twitter messages using just a base mobile phone in India. But at the same time I was wondering what is so 'exclusive' about it. Twitter being open with it's api, it should have been trivial for anyone to create such a service.

I think the the problem is that in India any SMS to a short code is termed a 'Value Added Service' and gets charged Rs 3/-. Moreover it is not very easy to get such a short code to build your application easily. I think that creates a huge barrier for others and makes it easy for the carriers to announce such a service.

Incidentally I had been thinking about how to provide a similar feature in India and happened to stumble upon smsgupshup's platform. I got a demo account yesterday and today in couple of hours created this SMSTweet service which allows you to update your tweets over SMS.

How does it work? Well it's just a two step simple procedure.
  1. You send "tweet register " to 09220092200. If you have provided a correct username/password and the twitter servers are not too busy, you account will be registered with this service. Note that both username and password are case sensitive.
  2. Thereafter just send SMS "tweet " to 09220092200 and the message will be tweeted on your behalf.
As you can see that the SMS'es are being sent at a long mobile code, you will be charged your regular Re 1/- for the SMS'es.

A small note of disclaimer before you use this service. Please note that this service is just whipped up in an hour, so usability may be a little shaky. Also this service is just forwarding user messages and hence cannot be held responsible for the messages being sent.

(Picture credit :

Sep 17, 2009

API for BSE Shares data in India

Earlier today I was looking for an API which provides stock quotes for Indian market(BSE) in real time. But couldn't really find anything close to it. The only option left for me was to scrape the information from any one of the sites which provide live quotes for Indian shares.

After eye-balling couple of sites I shortlisted on Since this is the official site of the Bombay Stock Exchange, I thought they would provide me the information as real as I could get. Moreover the web page which provides scrip information looked quite simple for me to scrape.

Luckily I did not have to scrape the HTML data to get my content. I reverse engineered the process of displaying the scrip information on the browser and realized that was actually using an API. The API though would return all the information as a comma separated list.

Finally I created a gem out of it (yes it was a ruby script) and thought it would be a good idea to share it. So here it is, my first open source ruby gem called BseQuote. You can build it yourself after downloading the code from github. Share your feedback if you find it useful.

(Picture credit: cc Niyantha / Flickr)

Aug 2, 2009

Money for Nothin and Google Apps for Free

Google Apps logo ring of happinessImage by adria.richards via Flickr

Somewhere around begining of 2009, Google stopped its free version of Google Apps. In my view this was one product which really helped any new startup or small company to get bootstrapped with email and other communication tools in a matter of hours. It did receive some backlash for taking such a step. But in my view as they have their popular email services (gmail) free, It is ok to charge people to have a company email account.

In one of their blog (in 2008) google did mention that it was difficult to find the free service but asserted that there is one. Later when they decided to remove even that option in the Google Apps page, the whole world was furious at them. But I guess they forgot to tell their Google Appengine team that Google Apps was no longer free.

So here is a step by step process of setting up your free Google Apps account. I have used this method to setup a free Google Apps account twice for my friends so I believe this method is valid today. However I cannot guarantee in future that this method will work. In case it works, do drop me a mail and a cheque for 50$ for saving you some precious money.

  1. Head straight to to create a free Appengines account. Yeah I know you are not interested in creating an application on appengine, and you don't have to. This is just a back door to your free Google Apps account.
  2. After logging in with your gmail account, create a new appengine application. Give it any name. We are not going to use this name anyways.
  3. Once you are in the dashboard of your new what-you-wanna-call-it application go to versions link under Administration.
  4. Click on the 'Add Domain' button that you see in this page. This will take you to a page where you will see a link 'Sign up for google apps'. This link takes you to a Google Apps signup page, which is the free version of Google Apps and not the Premium one.
  5. You really think there is another step after creating your brand new free Google Apps account? Yes there is. Did you forget about writing me a cheque for 50$?
So Google Apps is still free Mr. Arrington. They have just made it a little difficult for you to find it. And guess what there is even simpler way than the one mentioned above.

I've got Binged

Call me a narcissist if you will, but I do have a fetish to keep looking up my name in google for quite some time. Ever since I knew about google (1999), I've been keying in 'mayank sharma' in it to know where I stand in in the internet. For some reason my page at btech96 website of IITD always used to figure #2 or #3.

In fact one of my secret dream is to get slash-dotted once. But I believe that probability of getting slash-dotted is inversely proportional to number of years you've been out of your college. So I don't really think I'll be slash-dotted ever.

But I never really expected Bing to through up this blog of mine as the first result when searched for me. I had my 30 seconds of fame moment. I was pleasantly surprised as the last blog post was done in March 2006. That is a really long time ago. But still it was the number #1 result. Infact the last blog post contained about 20 odd spam comments which I had to immediately delete once I realized that importance of this blog ;).

It then occured to me that I should probably revive my old hobby of blogging. I have revived it a multiple times, but the urge died down soon after a post. Let's see how long it lasts this time. By the way for the record, this blog appears #3 in Google Search, and my photograph, which I took almost 10 years ago at 2 in the morning sitting in front of an SGI machine wondering what to do, ranks #1 :-). And my btech96's page figures #4. So watch out Geekbodhy for a stiff competition from me.

I have been using google and bing together for some time to see the quality of results being shown, and my initial verdict is that you cannot quite rule out bing as you did msn search earlier. You do get some good results from bing sometimes. The core of google search engine (PageRanking) has really been too good till now. A lot of search companies tried semantic search to get context into the user's search queries and hoped that they will serve better results to the user. But inspite of their good algo's they have not really been able to challenge Google's simple PageRank.

But now as Internet matures into web 2.0 as we call it, I think the dynamics of content is changing quite rapidly. Social networking today helps you build a huge network and hence you do get a lot of inbound links. In such a scenario I do not know how well the PageRanking algo will perform.

The recent Microsoft-Yahoo deal has already provided about 35% of market share to Bing. If they can continue to provide good search results in this new world, they really might just give Google a stiff competition in the near future.