My husband’s female associate uses his account to book cabs in Delhi because of the explicit messages and calls she got from some drivers when she used her own number in the past. For many women, this kind of harassment is common everytime they share their mobile number publicly, be it for a taxi service or for food delivery.
But a service like Doosra, which means second in Hindi, can offer the answer for those who do not wish to share their mobile numbers publicly. “Doosra is simply a virtual mobile number, which can help protect the user’s privacy. Don’t think of us as an app, but more as a secondary number. This virtual number can be shared anywhere instead of your personal number,” Aditya Vuchi, Founder and CEO for Doosra told indianexpress.com.
The idea is simple. You go to a shop or a restaurant, and at the end the business wants a mobile number from you. Instead of fighting out over why a mobile number needs to be shared, one simply shares the Doosra number, which is a virtual one.
“Today anywhere you go, be it supermarket or store or restaurant, everybody mandates that you give your mobile number. In such cases you end up sharing your personal mobile number, and that leads to a lot of spam calls, inappropriate messages. But with Doosra, you can share this number publicly anywhere. We give you a dedicated number when you sign up for the service,” Vuchi explained.
The paid service has been live for the last six-seven weeks and users can sign up for a six month service or a yearly service with a monthly charge.
So how does Doosra work once someone signs up for the second virtual number? “If someone calls you on the Doosra number, it blocks all calls by default. So somebody has access to your number, they can no longer bother you. So they asked for a mobile number. You gave them a Doosra mobile number. All messages sent to this Doosra number appear on the app,” explained Vuchi.
The app does give users the option of adding a number as a trusted contact so that they can whitelist the call. Vuchi gives an example of a pharmacy where one might need to share a number, but not want to share their primary number. They could share their Doosra number, and then whitelist the pharmacy number in order to allow the call to go through to your regular number.
According to Vuchi, they understand that there are some use cases where a customer would want calls to come through and they are trying to handle these as well.
“The call block can also be turned off for 60 minutes and depending on location. We have also added some trusted services like Ola, Swiggy, Dunzo. So if the Swiggy delivery person calls on your Doosra number using the Swiggy system, then that call comes through to your mobile number,” he said.
Vuchi believes an ad-drive free version would defeat the very purpose of their existence. “We are focused on privacy. We believe that for us to be able to run a sustainable and viable business, this paid model is needed. As a privacy focused brand, having ads would be very opposite to what we’re trying to achieve,” he added.
He also pointed out that the company collects very little information at the time of signing up. This includes the user’s mobile number, which is needed to route calls which have been whitelisted, and location data.
The app for instance does not require access to a user’s contacts. ‘We’ve had people ask us why can’t I just add my contact book to Doosra and you whitelist those and we’ve said no. We collect very little data ourselves,” he explained.
So what happens when someone calls you on the Doosra number and you might need to call them back, but you don’t want to do that using your main number? In this case, Doosra offers a limit of 100 minutes, where they route the call through an intermediate cloud telephony system.
This is basically the reverse of what Amazon or Swiggy do where when delivery persons call a customer, the call comes via a landline. But in Doosra’s case, a user can callback on this number without revealing their primary number.
Vuchi said that the focus of the app is around privacy. “Our privacy manifesto is very straightforward. We will not sell your data. We take very little information at the time of signup. We need your primary number to know where to forward the calls to; even email is not needed,” he pointed out.
In his view, the app can be useful especially for women. “Our customers have the option of giving their Doosra number to family members. So a father can also gift this to their teenage daughter, who can then share this number in public,” he said.
The app also offers an option for voicemail where the other party can leave a message. Vuchi acknowledged voicemail has not really worked in India, but in Doosra’s case it can allow businesses to leave a message to their customer. When a business which is blocked is calling on the Doosra number, they get a message saying the number is busy but are given an option to leave a voicemail. A user can later check the voicemail and see if it is important and get back.
Regarding messages which come to the Doosra number, Vuchi said the service encrypts these and then forwards them to the user’s Doosra account. The messages sent to this virtual number appear in the app. Of course, the messages are not end-to-end encrypted given they come from the telecom provider, but Doosra does not access these messages and the decryption key lies on the user’s device.
But what about potential for misuse? Could Doosra end up becoming the favourite route for mischief makers and pranksters? Vuchi said he does not see that happening. “Look it is possible even with your regular mobile number today. You could use that to create a Swiggy account or Ola account and then prank your friends. I don’t think Doosra increases those risks because they already exist.”
He also pointed out that even at the time of signing up users have to give a primary number which is verified with an OTP. Regarding possible issues with law enforcement, Vuchi said they are obligated to provide the information if needed.
He added that while privacy is their focus, compliance with the law remains. “Privacy and anonymity are two different things. We’re helping provide privacy, but will remain compliant under law. We are privacy focused, not about remaining anonymous,” he said.
Vuchi envisions Doosra as the number everyone shares with various services. It could be the main public number for many users, even for services like Swiggy and Ola.
“I believe privacy will be a hot button topic in the next 10 years. People are starting to take it more seriously. In India, I’m seeing that in more and more places sharing mobile numbers has become mandatory. In fact, systems are built in such a way the attendant can’t generate a bill without one. With Doosra, you can just share this number instead and control over who calls you and when,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines