As you might have read, cell phones are being adopted at an incredible pace in India. Everyone has a cell phone and is always using it. One thing I realized very soon after getting to India was that no one has voice mail for their cell phone. And people don’t even get the concept of voicemail and its advantages. After vigorously evangelizing voicemail for a few days, I started getting used to not having voicemail, and even appreciating the advantages of not having voicemail.
Gleaned from my various discussions about voicemail, the Indian point of view seems to be:
-You can always send a SMS instead of a voicemail.
-SMS is less intrusive, people can respond if and when they want to. Or not respond.
-When people make a call, they want to talk to you directly – they are looking for synchronous voice communication. Voicemail does not help with that – even a long, chatty message does not. You might as well SMS and set up a time to talk.
What this means. When you get a call, you know that someone chose to call instead of SMS. So people take calls in the middle of conversations or at times when it would be considered rude to do so in the US. What this also means: you are not having to go through a voice message backlog multiple times a day – no navigating long phone menus.
And then there is the whole concept of “missed calls“. Missed calls are when you call someone you know, you let it ring only once or twice, and then cut the call. This is generally between people who talk regularly and a missed call conveys a pre-set message. For example, a wife might give her husband a missed call at the end of the work-day to convey that she is heading home and that its time to meet up. Or someone might give a missed call to a friend they commute with indicating that its time to pick him up. Or a student might give a missed call to her parents – so that the parents can call back (that way the parents incur the cell phone charges). People evolve elaborate signals through missed calls: one ring might mean they are heading home, two rings might mean they are running late.
Sitting at the Uzanto Delhi offices, I would often hear a ring or two on someone’s phone, they would look at the phone and then continue what they were doing. Its a system that works quite well. In fact, its brlliant: communication without explicit communication. What the missed call means seems to depend on who it is from, time of day, and number of rings. I wonder if cell phone providers can build some type of an offering that facilitates this?