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Blogging by SMS, new rage in cool India

Blogging on cellphones in SMSes is on its way to become an absolute sell-out among compulsive cellphone users and enthusiastic communicators, reports Neha Tara Mehta.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2008 01:11 IST
Neha Tara Mehta

At 21, Ludhiana management student Harjinder Singh already has a mega project in hand, albeit in a micro medium. His 160-character blog posts, punched out on his Nokia handset, instantaneously reach 57,659 Sikhs across India — all at the cost of a single SMS. “I aim to arouse the pride of young Sikhs through my writings,” says Singh, who started blogging on his phone last May. “Many of my Sikh readers voted for Ludhiana’s Ishmeet Singh in Star Plus’s Voice of India — and contributed to his victory,” he adds. Singh has hired two people to get him cell numbers of 200,000 Sikhs, because he wants to reach “one in ten Sikhs soon”.

In Delhi, Lalchung Siem, a 33-year-old Food Corporation of India employee, whips out his phone several times a day to blog in Hmar, a tribal language spoken by a small group of people in India. His posts are sent free to 6,106 readers in the North-East by SMSGupShup, a microblogging platform. “Recently, I got an SOS call after two boys fell in a river in Saidan village, Manipur. I flashed the SMS on my blog, and within minutes, a hundred people reached the spot, and managed to rescue one of the boys,” he says.

Microblogging, i.e., blogging on cellphones in SMSes is on its way to become an absolute sell-out among compulsive cellphone users and enthusiastic communicators.

HOW?

"Microblogging is redefining what a conversation is all about, blurring the line between SMSing and blogging, and between the private and public,” says Kiran Jonnalagadda, who microblogs as 'Jace'.

Says Ramya aka IdeaSmith: “Blogging on the phone has no extra baggage that blogging on a computer carries: you don't have to be grammatically correct and your blog post could be just any stray thought.”

Twitter, a popular microblogging service abroad, recently introduced an India number. Says Biz Stone, Twitter's co-founder, “The people of India are very sophisticated when it comes to using SMS to stay connected.”

In Mumbai, Twitter recently inspired a 'tweetup', when Gaurav Mishra, a marketing professional and an "early adopter of technology", wrote out a post saying "Blog meets are so passé. I want a Mumbai Twitter meet."

Webaroo Inc, which launched the free microblogging service SMSGupShup in India last April, claims to be growing at nearly 4 per cent every day - purely through word-of-mouth publicity. “We expect users in excess of 20 million before the end this year,” says Webaroo vice president Chirag Jain.

Costs are recovered by placing contextual ads at the end of the SMS. MyToday MOBS, a microblogging service from Netcore Solutions that took off last July, sees nearly 25,000 people 'publishing' on a daily basis - again, with zero advertising and marketing costs.

“India has the world's third-largest mobile base. If you create services leveraging the mobile as a platform - they will work,” says Netcore MD Rajesh Jain.

It's not even just text anymore - phone companies are ringing in an era in which pictures, video and audio can be blogged instantaneously.

Nokia Nseries introduced its 'M-Blog' last year. “When blogging began in the '90s, the only way to blog was to get to a computer and upload images, text and video. But not any more,” says Vineet Taneja, GTM head, Nokia India.

Reliance has seen a four-fold increase in its m-blog usage since it started advertising the feature last month, to make blogging appear “less geeky.” And Sony Ericsson, buoyed by the success of its mobile blogging feature, has recently launched the K660i “for the Orkut generation”.

In Japan, five out of ten of last year's best-selling novels were originally written out on cellphones. Will India's mobile bloggers end up compiling novels from their writings? Veer Chand Bothra, the organiser of MoMos (meetings of mobile experts on Mondays), doesn't discount the possibility. “Microblogging is helping people release a lot of creative energy free of cost. They could be inspired to compile the microblogs as books eventually.”