SMS has long been rumoured to be on the brink of redundancy. There was (and still is) a perception in the market that SMS would be wiped out from this earth soon, with the popularity of instant messaging apps such as  WhatsApp and WeChat growing.

However, the rumour remains a rumour. Although WhatsApp has dwarfed the SMS industry with its innovative voice and video calling features, the service is still far from going obsolete — all thanks to the existence of umpteen consumer-oriented businesses in the world.

SMS is an integral part of enterprises’ communication strategy. From banks to retailers and from on-demand services to utilities, large and small businesses still heavily depend on SMS to communicate with customers, notify and inform them about various offers and services, and also to send OTPs, travel tickets, etc.

While the significance of SMS is growing, the industry has not undergone much innovation – barring a handful of startups.

India-based ‘Sunami‘ is one such venture that aims to take SMS to a new level. The startup uses state-of-the-art technologies such as AI, machine learning and natural language processing to build an app to auto-aggregate, segregate and organise SMSes.

“SMS is not going to die anytime soon,” Prabhu SNM, Founder and CEO of Sunami, parent of SMS Sunami, told e27. “We will be disrupting the SMS industry by taking the B2C communication to a new level.”

SMS Sunami was started last year by a group of four experts in the tech, product and business domains — Prabhu, Prakhar Dighe (CTO), Adnan Ali, and Sudeep (COO), who goes by one name.

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The app is solving a key pain-point for smartphone consumers, whose inboxes get inundated with spams and promotional SMSes on a daily basis. SMS Sunami auto-aggregates, segregates, and organises SMSes and saves users from spam.

The app understands the context of messages and automatically classifies them into a set of predefined categories, such as bills, entertainment, food, health and fitness, lifestyle, telecom operator, tickets, travel, and more.

“What Google did to Gmail inbox is what we did to SMS,” Prabhu mentioned. “With our app, we see SMS take a new avatar altogether. SMS no more remains the same. It becomes highly competitive to today’s messaging platforms such as WhatsApp etc.”

What triggered Sunami

The idea of SMS Sunami occurred to the founders when they were developing ‘Street Smart’, a mobile app that helps users to find hyperlocal deals and offers while shopping offline. However, Street Smart did not take off as expected, as retailers neither pushed offers onto the platform, nor did they update the app with the latest offers.

“This became an operational inefficiency for us to scale into multiple geographies, which forced us to find an alternative to solve the challenge of curating offers and protecting users from spam/promotional SMSes. This is when we came up with the idea of aggregating and segregating SMSs into different categories for easy identification and retrieval,” he said.

“When we shared our first version of the app with our friends in the close circles, they loved it and were excited to use the app. We realised that this app will be useful for users grappling with spam/promo SMSes on a daily basis and will help them organise the inbox.

This is when we pivoted from hyperlocal deal discovery platform to an SMS organiser,” Prabhu remarked.

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The foursome, however, did not stop there. They went on to add automated personalised reminders to the app that help users keep track of travel tickets, bills, recharges.

With an intuitive UI/UX design, SMS Sunami extracts granular information from a basic SMS such as ticket info (PNR, train no., seats etc.) and shows it as a neat ticket card with the sender logo for easy identification. It also separates your personal messages from transactional/promotional SMSes.

Besides organising the incoming messages into defined groups, it is also capable of reading promotional text messages to serve contextual offers based on the content. For instance, if you have a confirmation message from an airline on your travel tickets, SMS Sunami will serve you a cab-rental offer on the date of your travel.

This concept applied to the smartphone is very similar to what Google does by reading your mailbox.

“SMS Sunami is going to be the next WhatsApp for real-time topic-based chats for consumers and businesses  — bringing people with anonymously common interests together for discussion, debate, discovery, support, complaint and feedback,” Prabhu said.

The startup will soon add a new button to the app by which you can delete all your spam/promo/junk SMSes with a single click.

A free-to-use app, SMS Sunami hopes to convert some of its users to paid users by allowing them to subscribe to premium limited offers, recommendations, SMS backup, etc.

As for businesses, the startup will provide contextual advertising, consumer data and analytics, and a platform for cross-selling of products/services and inline advertising etc.

In this domain, SMS Sunami is mainly competing with TBOX, an app that helps you organise your business SMS messages. In addition to the basic features, this app allows you to get a backup of your SMS messages as a secured pdf attachment to your email.

SMS Sunami was incubated by TATA Elxsi Incub@te.

India has over 220 million smartphone users, and application to person (A2P) mobile messaging and mobile consumer data is expanding at a CAGR of 4.2 per cent. Asia Pacific leads the A2P messaging market with 40 per contribution, with India and China leading the pack. A2P SMS is in high demand in several industries – retail, BFSI, travel and transport, healthcare and hospitality, and entertainment (gaming) and media. SMS Sunami is looking to make the most of this fast-growing market.

Image Credit: SMS Sunami