Homegrown startup Naam looks to challenge Truecaller with privacy-focused caller ID app

Naam aims to challenge Truecaller in India by leveraging AI and publicly available information to build a spam-free database, offering a lighter app with a privacy-first approach and support for regional languages.

Homegrown startup Naam looks to challenge Truecaller with privacy-focused caller ID app

Saturday February 10, 2024,

5 min Read

Scam calls have become a widespread menace. Last year, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw cautioned against picking up calls from unknown numbers. As per a McAfee survey, 48% of Indians conned by AI call scams lost over Rs 50,000 individually.

While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is taking steps to implement a caller identification system, private players are helping notify users of fraud and spam calls. Jaipur-based startup Naam’s made-in-India app uses AI to flag potentially fraudulent numbers by scraping through its database of over 500 million phone numbers.

Founded in 2023 by Arpit Tak, a telecom industry veteran, along with his college friend and second-time entrepreneur Ramesh Chaudhary, uses publicly available information to maintain its database and wants to serve as a homegrown alternative to the Swedish software company Truecaller, which helps identify and block spam calls.

"The core essence of Naam solution lies in its detailed spammers and scammers identification through AI-based models and algorithms. Naam is focused on addressing these problems by putting meaningful data safety and privacy into the hands of users through the last mile adoption of data science," Tak said.

Naam.ai was listed among the most promising Indian startups of 2023 in the Tech30 list released by YourStory at the Bengaluru edition of TechSparks.

Making a name for itself

One of the largest players in the industry with 270 million users in India, Truecaller uses community-based spam reporting to weed out unwanted calls.

Meanwhile, Naam combines patterns like call duration and hang-up rates to better ascertain who is a spammer. It picks up numbers on Google reviews, social media posts, PDFs, and other files available on the internet.

Naam’s app is much lighter, at just 5.9 MB.

While Truecaller relies on pop-up ads embedded with the caller information to monetise basic features, Naam has kept all features, including automatic spam identification blocking and instant number identification, free for early adopters.

Revenue opportunities

Naam.ai can tap multiple avenues in the future for monetisation.

“Unlike most apps that require active user engagement to generate revenue like YouTube and Instagram, caller ID apps don't necessitate such interaction. They seamlessly create revenue opportunities with every incoming call, eliminating the need for users to open the app,” notes Tak, Co-founder of Naam.

One way is through verified caller ID programmes where companies pay a fee to be designated a verified caller. Tak illustrates that consumer-facing companies which have to make frequent calls to customers use Truecaller to ensure people pick up their calls without hesitation.

“Unknown caller identification is a monopoly (in India Truecaller is the only competitor). India's population and smartphone penetration of over 700 million adds more fuel to it. Naam's vision is to put control back privacy into the hands of the users,” he says.

To tap the Indian market, Naam wants to make its app widely usable by expanding support for more regional languages. It supports the nine most spoken Indian languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, and Marathi, with the help of natural language processing tools.

“Languages are intricate and when not accounted for properly, can cause some confusion,” he adds, illustrating that a name like Sona can be literally translated to ‘gold’ by apps. “So, we need to make systems that understand cultural intricacies as well.”

However, there are challenges the company must scale before thinking of profitability. Multiple users on Google Play Store, where it has over 100,000 downloads, complained about the app’s caller ID only showing up after the call, rendering it ineffective in most cases. Despite updates, these problems persist.

“Different operating systems operate differently. We're studying how modifications to Android can cause glitches. We will be fixing these issues very soon,” Tak states.

A bigger problem, according to the entrepreneur, is that a large, untapped, privacy-conscious user base is reluctant to download an app which requires them to sacrifice their privacy.

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Founders and future

Before starting Naam, Arpit managed telecom network Airtel’s AI team and customer-facing Airtel Thanks app which has more than 100 million users. With an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, he has worked in multiple data and software roles and has more than 11 years of experience in the industry.

His co-founder Ramesh Chaudhary previously co-founded Sarv, a cloud telephony service provider. Chaudhary has worked in software-as-a-sector, security, and cloud arenas, and also started Sendclean, an email delivery platform for marketers and enterprises.

Naam is currently bootstrapped and seeking an investment of $2-3 million to fund growth to 10 million users over the next three years. It expects to reach 1 million active users shortly.

This year, the company will integrate user feedback for spam and scams, fix bugs, and amplify advertisements to acquire more users. It also plans to integrate generative AI features in the next 2-3 years and add more features to improve customer retention.

(The article was updated to accommodate clarifications from Truecaller.)

Edited by Kanishk Singh