A call in time can save a life: How a good old phone call can make a difference

Technologies like cloud telephony help us use a simple phone to achieve something much larger.

George (not real name) was unable to sleep at night. He was haunted by thoughts of losing his job. His fear was not unwarranted considering that colleagues around him were losing their jobs. Layoffs had become common in the industry.

Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

According to the latest sequential data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), about two million people lost their jobs between January and August in 2017. Another similar report, McKinsey & Company has said nearly half of the workforce in the IT services firms will be "irrelevant" over the next 3-4 years. As the trend of job cuts continues, there is accelerated unrest among employees in the IT industry.

Given the above scenario, most of George’s friends who were laid off were finding it difficult to get placed. Almost everyone around him was facing similar issues. There was no one he could talk to. And this led to more stress and increased pressure. Replace George with the person sitting next to you. Replace fears of losing a job with thoughts about suicide, unhappiness in life, or sense of depression.

Social Friendships

The last decade has been marked by a sharp increase in internet connectivity. Global digital report 2017 states that, more than half the world now uses a smartphone and almost two-thirds of the world’s population now has a mobile phone. Social media use has grown 21 percent year-on-year, with almost half a billion (482 million) new users signing up over the course of 2016.

India alone accounts for 55 million+ users. The growth in number of people moving online has translated into yet another good year for the world’s top social media platforms, with most companies recording another year of impressive growth. While, we are now joint at the hip with our “social media friends”, there still exists a level of dystopian aloofness that we have never experienced earlier.

More than ever, today, we have online communities that bring people together and help them share their lives. But on an individual level, there is a still a marked sense of loneliness.

Social networking sites have blurred the lines between flesh-and-blood and virtual friends. People fail to understand that social media interaction is a superficial experience and that it cannot replace the enrichment that one may get from the personal touch of a real interaction. Therefore, even in today’s day and age when we are more connected than ever, when it comes to real conversations, we are far apart from each other.

Cloud Telephony, a simple technology that can help you reach just about anyone

A phone call is a simple tool that is available to us today. Technologies like cloud telephony help us use a simple phone to achieve something much larger, help people to whom help is otherwise unavailable or people who are reluctant to reach out.

An online counselling and emotional wellness platform, observed that 62.5 percent of the professionals with lay-off related issues showed symptoms of either anxiety or depression and 57 percent professionals suffering through a lay-off did not seek ANY support.

A WHO study released in 2015 said that, “Over five crore Indians suffered from depression, a major contributor to global suicides which occurred mainly in low and middle-income countries like India” Can we not put an end to this? Think about the possibility of a phone number where people could call in, talk to experts or counsellors about things that are troubling them. They could get advice on how to cope with it. And all of this can happen without compromising on anyone’s privacy. A lot of hesitation and awkwardness can be saved when a face to face meeting is not necessary.

Uplifting at the grassroot level. Not just a helpline but an added power tool to disseminate information

A simple phone call can prove to be the most powerful way to disseminate information. Take an example of a non-profit organisation that has been working in the space of Policy Implementation in India since 2012, whose aim is to educate parents from the economically backward sections of the society about RTE and guide them through the admission process.

Manually helping thousands of parents during the admission season is almost impossible. Strike almost. It is definitely impossible. Because most of the times, these organisations also work on limited funds. Automating phone calls and SMS during their busiest seasons helps them work with a lot more parents without any one child’s admissions falling through the cracks.

Similarly, another interesting example is of a publishing house who ran a campaign of reading bed-time stories in multiple Indian languages to children in the economically weaker sections of the society with a luxury, a story on demand in the language of their choice. The pilot project was so well received by so many children (whose parents were not literate) wanting to hear bedtime stories that they received over 35-37,000 calls in five days. Over 7,000 children were able to enjoy the world of tales and stories through cloud telephony.

Power of a phone call in India. Here are some reasons why a phone call works best for countries like India

1. 24x7 Availability - Being available at all times is very important because it is the first 5 minutes when a person is suicidal or in depression that makes all the difference. It may not be possible to physically meet someone at all times. But you can always pick up the phone and call someone knowing that help is available.

2. Privacy - One of the biggest reasons people avoid getting help in a country like India is the taboo that is still associated with mental illness. A phone call powered by a technology like cloud telephony gives you the shield of anonymity that can be a gentle nudge to get help.

3. Simplicity - A phone call doesn’t need anything special and works on even a simple feature phone, no internet, no special apps, no barriers.

4. Multi-lingual - In a country like India, with so many languages, a phone call makes it very simple to express a person’s thoughts without any inhibitions.

So, in a country like India with a population of 1.324 billion, it is extremely pertinent to feel personally connected rather than have each individual feel like a separate island. This is the possibility and power that cloud telephony can bring and therefore make a difference to people’s lives.

The author is CEO & Founder of Exotel

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