the launch of a group SMS product called SMS GupShup on Tuesday. The service lets a mobile user create a community, invite other users, and post SMSs to all members at once.
It works by sending a keyword to a short code (67673434) for joining or creating a community. The code is also used for inviting members to the community. The charge for each SMS to the entire group varies from Re 1 to Rs 3, depending on the carrier. Members of the group will get the messages from their community founder free of charge until they decide to leave it.
The group messages are also available online at www.smsgupshup.com, which also offers the same functions, for free. Other functions on SMS GupShup include polls, ratings and quizzes for community members.
As the service is subsidised, it is being supported by contextual text advertising. The ad will appear as text of 40 characters after the main message. Features such as click-to-call and callback number will be added eventually. However, Webaroo has not started placing ads in the service yet - that is only slated for the end of 2007. The ads will be based on the profiles of the users of the group as well as the preferences of individual users.
Chirag Jain, vice-president, India operations, said there were "hundreds" of groups and over 10,000 users have joined GupShup during the pilot period of four weeks. He added that he expected this number to reach 50,000 by the end of the month, considering that it has been officially launched.
The company hopes to break even in 12-18 months' time and will add other features like messaging within the community, as currently, only the creator of the community can send group SMSs and not members.
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