The next time you call just Dial for some information and a sweet little voice on the other end of the line makes a plea for your name, phone number and e-mail address, please don't say: "I'd rather not give it." Just give it. The tele-information provider, which is present in 42 cities, receives on an average more than three million enquiries per month nationwide. And 11 years after Just Dial was flagged off, more and more callers are beginning to realise the virtues of providing the operator with their own details. As V.S.S. Mani, Founder & MD, Just Dial, explains: "Till date, we have never ever given out our database to telemarketers, but we just don't have the time to explain it to people over the phone."
Well, this is how it really works. When you call Just Dial, it is obliged to inform the establishment/service provider about your inquiry. As Mani puts it: "Our revenues come from sponsored customers, and sponsored customers need to see tangible results. Our sole purpose of being is to help people out with information, the end result of which leads to sales for our paying clients." Apart from its core function of just giving out numbers and addresses of specific establishments, Just Dial also offers a plethora of services through its vendors; these include offers on electronic products, travel packages, medical services and moving and packing services.
Boasting a turnover of Rs 100 crore, a database of 2 million business records and 10 million regular users, along with 2,700 employees across 12 Indian cities, Just Dial has come a long way. In 1996, Mani landed in Mumbai with a princely sum of Rs 50,000 to find a home and an office space. Both weren't easy to find.
What Mani did find were generous relatives, who offered him an empty flat in one of the city's far-flung suburbs, rent-free. Mani soon after succeeded in renting a 25-square feet office in Mumbai's financial district, Nariman Point, for Rs. 5,000 a month.
Mani was a part of the trio that started the now all-but-defunct Delhi-based 'Ask Me' service. "We were much ahead of the times. Those were the days when people had to wait years to get phone connections. The idea was good and well-appreciated, but we didn't see any financial gains from it," he says.
One of the invaluable lessons he was taught during his experience at Ask Me was that the phone number for his new service would simply have to be the easiest one to remember. Enter 8888888. Today the number is no longer seven eights, but 39999999-and here's the best part-irrespective of which city in the country you are calling from, the number remains the same.
In mid-March, Just Dial took on an online avatar, somewhat belatedly one could argue. But Mani says he's already getting page views of 220,000 per day, which he expects to take up to 1 million by the year-end. But this seems one business model that works best with voice.