This post was published long ago, when I was a student and an amateur blogger. The links might be outdated and content may not be useful anymore. Please read this content keeping its age in mind.
As I have stated in my earlier post SMStweet – Tweet using SMS in India, I’m finally here with the interview of Mayank Sharma, the brain behind SMStweet. It took me quite a few days to get the information from Mayank Sharma, due to his busy schedules. Living it asides here we go with my interaction with Mayank Sharma.
* Let know more about you.
I have started a company called ezeecoupons. We intend to provide discount and offers over mobile phone as a simple SMS. People will be able to search for discount vouchers in stores that they are interested in. We have launched a prototype version of it in a Bangalore locality called Jayanagar. I like to read a lot love trekking. But these days most of my time is taken up by my daughter Raina, so don’t have time for other things.
* How and when did you get idea of starting smstweet?
Twitter was initially intended to be used on mobile phone originally. The simplicity of twitter made it so addictive that people started using on the internet as well. And it is on the internet that it found its adoption. If you start tweeting, you realize that it is so addictive that you want to keep on doing it even when you are not in front of your computer. Hence the need for it had always been. And then sometime in October I got introduced to a friend who told me about smsgupshups API’s. The moment I heard about it, I immediately grabbed an account there, and SMSTweet was born. Call it by bad luck or what, but the day I was testing out my application I heard the big news about Airtel providing Twitter access on mobile phone at 1 rupee.
* How did you get started?
As I said, I just got a demo account with smsgupshup and in couple of days implemented a basic version of SMSTweet. Thereafter just fixed bugs and made it more robust.
* How is smstweet built?
SMSTweet runs on Google Appengine. I used python to code the entire application. SMSTweet uses SMSGupshup’s SMS gateway to receive messages. I map the phone number from which the message is received to the correct Twitter user and post it on their behalf using Twitter’s open API.
* How was response of people initially?
Initial response was quite disheartening. Apparently no one in my circle of friends was as twitadict as I was and hence no one was actually using it. Almost a month later couple of people found out about it and they started using it. Most of them blogged about that helped SMSTweet reach out to a wide audience. In one sense it grew virally from that point onwards.
* Who are the key people/supporters behind?
From technical point of view, there is no one supporting me. It’s a fairly small piece of software so I don’t think I require any help from that perspective. Rohit helped me out with the design of website. He also reviews my code and keeps me honest with the code that I write. Other than that a large part of credit goes to all the bloggers who blogged about it. Seriously if not for those bloggers, hardly a handful of people would have know about SMSTweet.
* Why have not you provided local numbers beyond Mumbai and Bangalore?
These local numbers actually do not belong to me. They belong to SMSGupshup and I am just sharing it with them. It is upto SMSgupshup to add more cities so that a lot more people can use it as local SMS. I have contacted SMSGupshup and they said they will tell me if they decide to add more cities. But I don’t think lack of local numbers is a hindrance. Most of the mobile operators provide free local/STD sms plans for negligible account. So if you have one, you can virtually use SMSTweet for Free.
* What are your future plans?
I will keep on adding features as and when I have time. The usability of SMSTweet is quite restricted as the application does not initiate a SMS to a user. It only listens to SMS from users and responds to it. I have made this conscious decision because from the day one, I had decided I’ll not spend money on this tool. Google Appengine is free for me. SMSGupshup charges nominal amount to keep the account alive. And I don’t send out any outgoing SMS’es from my account. In this restrictive environment it is quite hard to innovate. But let’s see if we get some good ideas, I will implement them.
* Anything else you would like share with our readers
I would really like to thank everyone who has promoted SMSTweet either through blog or on twitter. Without any marketing budget that is the only way to reach out to your audience. So I hope people keep on using it, send me feedback and if some one gets a wacko idea, share it with me so I can see if I can implement it.
This was my first experience of taking someone’s interview(anyways had experience of being interviewed !). This was an essential step to keep by blog unique. The interview series will continue in the coming days, letting you aware of unknown personalities. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome. Do not forget to Subscribe to my RSS Feeds and follow me on Twitter.