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Communicating with “The Missed Call”: An Indian Innovation

I’m traveling to India on business. I am staying at a hotel and I need to call my driver when I’m ready to leave. How do I let him know I’m ready to go? I don’t want to call his mobile phone as I would have to pay $3/minute for roaming charges to my U.S. carrier. He can’t call me because he doesn’t want to make an international call. So he tells me – “Sir, just give me a missed call when you are ready”. So when I’m ready to leave, I call his mobile and hang up. Presto, the car is there when I reach the lobby! No money spent. No words exchanged. But the message goes through and the job gets done.

The “Missed Call” – Yet another uniquely Indian innovation in communication!

Here are some other scenarios for communicating with “Missed Calls”. My friend’s mom lives in a high-rise apartment building in Mumbai. She has a DVD rental guy drop off DVDs for new movies every couple of days to her apartment (this itself is another Indian innovation – “Video on Demand”, Indian style!). She needs to inform the building security to let the guy in. A few minutes before the DVD rental guy reaches the apartment building, he gives her a Missed Call. She in turn gives the DVD rental guy a Missed Call to let him know she is at home and is interested in new DVDs. She then calls the building security guard and lets him know that the DVD rental guy is coming in a few minutes. He is let into the building and she gets her movies. Nobody calls anybody, but a lot is said and done!

My wife’s cousin lives in India, and she prefers that we call her from Chicago as it is more affordable for us to call her than for her to call us. So she calls us and hangs up. We see her number on our Caller ID, and we call her back by responding to the Missed Call. The same idea works if you are traveling internationally, and incoming calls are free for you but outgoing calls are very expensive. Just place a Missed Call and have the other party call you back.

So there you have it. For us in the United States, missed calls are missed communication. But in India, a Missed Call is a powerful and elegant form of communication! So, call me but don’t talk to me. I’m waiting for your Missed Call!

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