The Missed Call

January 27, 2014

I don’t know if any other countries are as innovative as India is, when it comes to “lateral application” of technology. One of these lateral applications is that wonderful


in the field of mobile communication…the Missed Call (MC).

In a country where every paise is squeezed for what it can yield, it was inevitable that the MC itself became a medium of communication. Almost as fast as the mobile service providers announced different plans, Indians have found a way of utilizing the ancient concept of zero to them.

How a zero? Let’s assume that when a call is made and received, it registers as one call. So, if the call is not completed, it does not register as a call, and is a zero on the mobile service provider’s billing. But in India, it works in other ways, even as a zero.

My first demonstration of the MC came when the plumber arrived at home to look at the pipes. His assistant needed to go to the terrace to check on the main pipes leading from the water tanks, and was told, “Go up to the terrace and if you find everything is OK there, give me a missed call”. Sure enough, the plumber disconnected his call from his helper, after the second ring..and the message had been passed, without a paisa having been spent on either side.

Over the years, I’ve also used the MC as a way of communication. I get on a bus at Bangalore, and want to tell my friend in Mysore that the bus is on its way…one MC. I’m to go downstairs and need to know when my friend is coming, so that I know when to go and wait…a MC from her.

A couple I know also uses the MC as a means of apparent non-communication, which is actually a method of communication. If someone calls at their home and wants to contact the husband, the wife gives her spouse a MC. The husband, noting the quick ending of the call, knows that someone has called (he usually knows who’s expected.) The wife apologizes to the visitor, “He’s not picking up his call”…and the husband now knows what to expect, and whether to come home to meet the person, or wait and avoid him.

But until a couple of days back, I didn’t know that MCs were also an accepted way of doing business. I switched on my TV and idly surfed through channels, and paused, out of curiosity, on one of those tv sales channels…and there it was…“Please give a MC on XXXX no, and we’ll call you back (and sell you this overpriced article that you don’t need…that subtext did not appear on the screen.)” went the text at the bottom of the screen. (And sell you this overpriced article that you don’t need…that subtext did not appear on the screen.)

My washing machine service engineer also informs me that rather than send texts to his boss, he just “gives a MC” as soon as he reaches the next customer’s place. That’s creative!

I wonder if there are other applications of the MC, and I’d like to know what, and how. We Indians are masters of the art of Not Paying For Something! And this, when most of us have mobile usage plans that include free messaging!