Utilizing SMS in emerging markets can be difficult because each market often has its own set of rules and regulations surrounding SMS traffic. India, for example, is an emerging market with a highly regulated system for SMS traffic. SMS traffic in India is regulated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or the “TRAI.” The TRAI regulates all SMS traffic in order to protect people from the enormous amount of spam SMS that has inundated the market.

Many companies who are new to the Indian market struggle to navigate these regulations and therefore struggle to use SMS to effectively communicate with users. This post is meant to break-down the SMS regulations in India into an easily-digestible format to make navigating the SMS market in India more manageable.

The TRAI and SMS

The TRAI has mandated, by law, that all SMS traffic be divided into different account types. These distinct types are the only legal way to send SMS in India. Each type of SMS has specific rules and regulations that must be followed.  All traffic, based on account type, is monitored closely by the TRAI and there are strict fines and penalties for those who violate any of the regulations.

Promotional SMS

Promotional SMS is just as it sounds, promotional. It is used for advertisements and promotions and is considered “spam.” Promotional SMS can only be sent from 9am to 9pm local time and cannot be sent to anyone registered on the DND, “Do not Disturb” registry or the NCPR, “National Customer Preference Registry” (earlier known as the National Do Not Call Registry), unless they have opted-in for a particular promotional SMS category. Those who register on the NCPR/DND can choose to either fully or partially block promotional SMS.

Fully- Blocked Category: Stops all commercial SMS/Calls from being received

Partially Blocked Category or Opt-in: Stops all commercial Calls/SMS except SMS from one of the opted preferences. There are 7 preference categories:

Banking/Insurance/Financial Products/Credit CardsReal EstateEducationHealthConsumer goods and automobilesCommunication/Broadcasting/Entertainment/ITTourism

Transactional SMS

Transactional SMS are user-consented or user-triggered SMS. Transactional SMS fall under very specific categories and are allowed for strictly “transactional in nature” communication. They can be sent 24/7 to anyone, including those on the NCPR/DND list. Transactional SMS are highly regulated by the TRAI. User complaints for non-transactional messages are reviewed and taken very seriously. Not only will promotional content be blocked, but there are harsh violations for the providers who allow any unapproved content to be sent.

Types of Transactional Messages per the TRAI

Information sent to its customer(s) by the Bank or financial institution or insurance company or credit card company.Information given by Airlines or Indian Railways or its authorized agencies to its passengers regarding travel schedules, ticket booking and reservation.Information from a registered educational institution to parents or guardians of its students.Information sent by e-commerce agencies in response to e-commerce transactions made by their customers.Information sent by a company or a firm or depository participant, registered with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) or Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) or Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) or National Commodity & Derivative Exchange Ltd. (NCDEX) or Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd. (MCX) to its clients pertaining to the account of the client.Information sent by a registered company to its employees or agents or to its customers pertaining to services or goods to be delivered to such customers.

Transactional SMS Templates & Approval

All transactional content must be approved by the Operator to ensure it is not promotional prior to sending.  Any unapproved content will be blocked. A company must send an “SMS Template” to the SMS provider for approval prior to sending the SMS. Any variation from the approved SMS template will be blocked, which includes an SMS with even the slightest variation from the approved template.

Sender ID for Transactional Messages

All transactional messages must be sent with a registered Sender ID. A Sender ID is approved by the provider and Operator and must meet the following criteria:

Must be an exactly 6 character long Alpha sender ID in uppercase.Must be related to the industry/brand/service for the transaction.

Penalties for SMS Violations

Customers can register complaints of any violation with their operator directly through multiple channels, including sending the operator an SMS to a specific number that is designated to collect complaints. These complaints are then investigated by the operators, and should the SMS provider be unable to show that they did not violate the rules, fines are imposed.

Violations include:

Sending “Promotional” messages to NCPR/DND registered users.Sending “non-Transactional” messages through a transactional account.Sending “Promotional” messages whatsoever between 9pm and 9am.


The fine for the first of any violation is Rs 25,000 and increases which each violation, up to Rs2,50,000, up to the sixth offense.After six violations, the SMS provider sending the message will be blacklisted from sending any further messages for a period of 2 years.

Quick Reference Table


Account TypeRestrictions / RulesSender IDContent ApprovalReach / DeliveryPromotionalOnly sent between 9AM- 9PM Local
Cannot be sent to anyone on NCPR/DND unless opted-in under categoryNoneNonePoorTransactionalCan be sent 24/7
Can be sent to anyone even if registered on NCPR / DND
Approved categories for transactional accounts
Approved transactional content only more  

View all 19 comments Below 19 comments
On my JIO Phone I get unsolicited Telemarketing calls and SMS'. I have TRAI app through which I complain. YET JIO HAS THE CHEEK TO CLOSE COMPLAINTS AS INCOMPLETE INFORMATION ! When I write to them , they give evasive replies like "Service call authorised by user' . When I ask them to send the details to file a complaint, they NEVER RESPOND. Complaints to TRAI fall on deaf ears . I have now complained about TRAI inaction and the Telecom providers subtly encouraging TELEMARKETing in Prime Ministers webpage and request all those who are affected by calls (irrespective of their telecom provider) to write to PM asking TRAI to become active in ensuring this stops and this will also help in arresting frauds. more  
Inspite of DND registration with Vodafone, still receiving marketing SMS ! more  
Unnecessary SMS are coming specially in BSNL mobile which could not be stopped but which are required are not reaching in time. more  
Worsted worst service provider in india is reliance which looted indian PUBLIC more  
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