USSD :The Interactive Messaging Platform Is Untapped in India and Emerging Markets

Not many mobile users  today are aware of the powerful Mobile USSD platform, which can actually be the solution to so many real life problems across various sectors.

USSD known as Unstructured Supplementary Services Data (USSD) is a GSM service which is a real-time and session oriented platform for Mobile transactions (Pull and Push based). Unlike SMS, USSD is a real time session oriented service. USSD gateway enables telecom operators to introduce messaging services and allows up-to 182 characters on a network between mobile stations and applications. USSD gateway uses the same application programming interface that the Short Message Service (SMS) centre does.

It works on mobiles without downloading any application software. It is initiated by dialing *xxxx# short code or dialling a 10 digit code. It has better adoption rate due to non dependency on applications.

Some of the salient features of USSD

  • USSD works on all GSM handsets
  • Displays application like interactive menu
  • No application installation required
  • More secure than SMS
  • GPRS/3G is not required as it works on voice channel
  • Real time session oriented platform
  • Average duration per transaction is 2 seconds in comparison to 7 seconds in conventional SMS banking
  • Incoming messages are of flash type and do not get stored on the handset

Telecom operators are currently using USSD to solve their customer problems by providing various services like account balance check, activations etc.

ussd menuRecently government of India has started an initiative to launch mobile banking on USSD across India. The new initiative is focussed on making mobile banking more universal. Currently, a smart phone is needed to download mobile banking applications, which an average mobile user does not have. So, the USSD application will work even on a simple handset to reach out to a larger section of the society. With this checking your bank balances or placing a request for a cheque book or funds transfer  has been made as simple and hassle-free on your mobile

A whole of lot of verticals can be integrated and enabled on USSD, which will solve major accessibility problems as USSD is more universal. Leading global Mobile technology organizations like mobiShastra have been already providing cutting edge USSD services to Enterprise customers and Telcos in India and around the globe. They are doing a fantastic job in delivering innovative USSD solution to Telcos and Enterprises. Some of the applications which an enterprise can look at enabling on USSD are:

  • Survey
  • Contests & Quizzes, Voting
  • eCommerce, Deals , Coupons, Mobile/DTH Recharge/Loyalty
  • Results (Election/School etc)
  • Sales & Sales Force Tracking
  • Utility services
  • Customer Service/ Technical support
  • Information, Infotainment, TV/Radio Channels
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Financial Information & Tracking (Banking, Insurance, Mutual Funds, Logistics, Courier companies)
  • ERP systems
  • Travel Ticketing (Airlines/Railways/Bus etc)
  • eChoupal (Agriculture based ), Rural apps

There are a whole lot of possibilities for enterprises to exploit the USSD technology platform.

An insurance app on USSD


Y2Cf a startup digital media company has launched an innovative product called Hoppr, a mobile device-agnostic location based service on USSD. This engages the users by providing various location specific deals . Users could check in to various locations using the USSD service and earn deals and discounts.

Another Singapore based startup in India U2opia has also launched 2 of the world’s most popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter on USSD. Major telecom operators have launched infotainment, utility & mdeals and coupons services on USSD in India.

After spending close to 13 years in the Mobile industry in India and emerging markets , I see a  lot of opportunities for tapping the USSD market in India and around the globe as it is a mobile device-agnostic solution. USSD is surely an untapped technology platform for sure.


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