Doosra, a startup that wants to fight the problem of phone spam, offers a secondary, virtual mobile number without the need of a SIM card or an additional device. This number, which can be activated through the Doosra app, can be shared at malls, pharmacies, restaurants, delivery apps, networking events, and shops, without being worried about promotional text and call spam later. Doosra reverses the traditional phone calling system by blocking all calls by default and sending them to voicemail unless you whitelist them personally. Subscribers can then choose to call back any blocked incoming calls without revealing their Doosra number.
Since its launch, Doosra says it has blocked over 1.5 million messages and 5,00,000 calls from over 45,000 telemarketers. The company looks to reach 3-5 million users in the next 18-24 months. It is also planning to launch a new ‘Passcodes’ feature that will allow callers to reach out to Doosra customers without getting blocked, through a secret passcode method.
Gadgets 360 spoke to Aditya Vuchi, Founder and CEO, Doosra to know a bit more about the company’s journey so far and its future plans.
1. What were you doing before you began Doosra?
Previously, I founded MediaMint (a global marketing operations firm) with over 1200 employees across multiple countries and Zippr (an addressing technology company), which partners with municipalities to deploy new-age digital addresses for better administration.
2. What motivated you to begin Doosra? How did you come up with the idea?
Doosra was born from a bitter personal experience a few years ago. I was shopping at a sporting goods store but decided to walk away after the billing clerk mandated that I share my personal mobile number for “billing” purposes. With my past experience in digital marketing, I fully understood the travesty of sharing personal information with businesses and the resultant behavioural profiling that is done for advertising purposes.
But this incident gave me the idea of creating a publicly-shareable mobile number that can be given at places where a person is uncomfortable sharing their personal number.
We started working on it in the summer of 2019, partnering with telecom operators to bring this unique and innovative product to market.
3. Explain in brief what Doosra is about and how it helps users?
Doosra is a secondary, virtual mobile number that can be shared anywhere; malls, supermarkets, delivery apps etc. without worry about phone number abuse from telemarketers and scamsters. By blocking all calls by default, Doosra gives you complete control of who can reach and who cannot.
We are well-positioned for the following reasons:
- Simple second number: All-digital and instant activation means users can get a Doosra number quickly.
- Virtual: No SIM needed or additional device required to run a Doosra number
- Focus on privacy: Doosra provides unique call management features like trusted contacts, trusted services, and voicemail, which are not available with any telecom operator
4. Can you dial someone using your Doosra number? How does that work?
While Doosra does not have outgoing calls, it does allow users to call back someone that has called them. This ensures there is no ambiguity about the call and if it may be something that is important to us. This call-back can be done through a call-bridging system that ensures the personal number of the Doosra user is protected. This is very similar to the way in which communication between a customer and food delivery personnel happens, where the personal number is masked for customer protection.
5. Are all calls coming in on your Doosra number blocked by default?
Doosra blocks all calls by default. All text messages sent to this secondary number are stored within the app. However, users always have the option to add a “trusted number” so you can whitelist the contact and their calls will come through. The other way to allow calls is to turn off the call blocker time, location or until when you need to. With this setting, all calls on that secondary number will get forwarded to your primary number and will not be blocked by default.
In a situation where you have to call someone, but you don’t want to use your primary number for it, Doosra offers a limit of 100 minutes (every month), wherein it routes calls through an intermediate cloud telephony system. Others can also call you back on this secondary number.
6. Is Doosra free to use?
Doosra, at its core, is all about privacy. That means giving users complete ownership of their data. As a result, we do not run ads or engage in any kind of data monetisation.
Doosra’s revenue is based on subscription plans currently available to our users.
The six-month plan is Rs. 749 and the 12-month plan is Rs. 999.
7. How many users have signed up for Doosra till now?
While we don’t discuss specific user numbers, Doosra has seen a wide range of use cases for the service.
- Avid shoppers that don’t like to give their personal number to stores,
- Solopreneurs who use Doosra as a publicly-listed numbers on platforms like JustDial and Google Places
- Celebrities/ public personalities who use their number for ultra-private communication
- Business persons that seek to split their professional and personal communication streams
8. The year you began Doosra was the year of the pandemic? How was it like tackling all the challenges of being in the first year of business and adjusting around the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis?
Doosra released its mobile app in September 2020 and this week marks the one-year anniversary of the product. While we planned to launch around May, we had to postpone the product launch until September as consumer sentiment recovered and people resumed their shopping activities. From a marketing perspective, we had to tweak our approach to focus heavily on digital advertising to get the word out there.
On the product front, we have been generous beneficiaries of the pandemic. As people shopped more online and paid using digital channels, the fear of identity theft was heightened and Doosra’s privacy-focused mobile number was very well received.
9. Could you help give a sense of how far Doosra in its one year of existence? From when it began to where it is now
Since our launch, we’ve blocked over 1.5 million messages and 5,00,000 calls from over 45,000 telemarketers since our launch. We also see significant interest from businesses that would like to use our telecom stack to better serve their customers. Just in the last two months, we’ve added marquee names to our list of Doosra users. Our goal is to reach 3-5 million users in the next 18-24 months
10. What does the recent IPO of Zomato mean for tech startups in India?
The Zomato IPO has heralded a new era of public companies where the Amazon-model of aggressively investing in customer and business growth is finding favour. India is a land of opportunities; and this requires pioneers like Zomato to induce the behaviour change needed (in this case, to order from nearby restaurants) to make a lasting impact. This development bodes very well for startups and early-stage investors where an IPO becomes a real path to realise returns. This also ensures that Indian startups don’t just hand over companies built with hard work and over time to international funds to enjoy the returns and ownership.
11. What are the other plans in the future?
One of the recurring use cases we have identified is usage of a Doosra number at marketplaces like FB Groups, OLX and others, where the deficit of trust is a key concern. To further protect our users and give them the convenience, we are launching “passcodes”, a way for callers to reach out to the Doosra customers (without getting blocked) if they have the secret passcode that may be shared on specific platforms. These passcodes can be turned on/off in the Doosra app, giving our users complete control over who can reach them.
12. Do you have any management mantra/ advice that you’d like to share with future entrepreneurs?
Expectation – Reality = Frustration
Entrepreneurship involves working with multiple internal and external stakeholders. Having an operating framework ensures your decision-making is consistent for everyone around you. In my case, setting expectations to be as close to reality minimises frustration.
13. What is the employee strength? Is Doosra hiring currently?
Doosra is a small, agile team of 25+ product, engineering, marketing and customer operations professionals working from various parts of the country. We believe that early-stage teams need to be nimble, decisive and fast in execution and that has been the key to our success. As a leader, I spend significant time listening to our customers and evolving the product for long-term growth and expansion. Doosra is looking to grow the team; product managers, full-stack developers, sales executives and support representatives.