World’s most popular mobile messaging app – WhatsApp, which was recently sold to Facebook for $19 Billion has 40 million active users in India. On an average, the app has been adding 5 million active users every month so one can hope that by end of 2014 the app witnesses a billion users from India itself. Founder Jan Koum of WhatsApp and Mark Zuckerberg Founder at Facebook are well aware of these numbers and have acknowledged India to be a big market.
Talking to ET in an interview at the ongoing Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Jan stated that, “India is important… we want all smartphone users (in India) to be on WhatsApp. Then if that number is a billion, then it’s a billion. Currently, (it’s) over 40 million. So we still have some way to go before we hit a billion.”
WhatsApp which celebrated its 5th birthday, presently has 465 million monthly active users and 330 million daily ones across the globe. The messaging app also announced that it plans to roll out voice services, competing with the likes of Viber and Skype. Voice will be added initially on iPhone and Android in the second quarter of the year, with BlackBerry and Windows Phone to be updated later.
Jan who grew up watching Indian movies as a kid in Russia before moving to California at the age of 16, acknowledges that voice has its own challenges but the company with Facebook’s backing is all set to make it happen.
“We will make sure voice works just as well. I understand that there are bandwidth constraints, network constraints, but we will take the same approach to voice that we took to (messaging) five years ago, which is focus on quality, simplicity, performance so that it’s the world standard for voice just as (for) messaging it’s the world standard,” Jan said.
While the world is still figuring out the $19 billion price for WhatsApp and what could be its source of revenue, Mark who was also present at the Mobile World Congress stated in his talk that WhatsApp is actually worth much more since it fits into a larger goal of connecting more people around the world to the Internet.
“I mean it is hard to exactly make that speech today because they have so little revenue compared to that number. But the reality is that there are very few services that reach a billion people in the world. They are all incredibly valuable, much more valuable than that,” added Mark.
Mark wants Jan and his team to purely connect with people for the next five years; he informed the audience that the WhatsApp deal grew out of conversations of providing better Internet service in undeveloped parts of the world. He added that “Jan was excited” about Internet.org and its goals.
In its hunt for the next billion users from emerging markets, Facebook is aware that access to the internet will pose a big challenge in countries like Brazil, India and South Asia. However, the smartphone penetration in Asia and especially in India has bolstered the growth of messaging which not only provides ease of communication but also at very low costs.
With Internet.org Facebook plans to bring internet closer to the people who have been barred from it, like it is doing in India by partnering with Uniliver. Simultaneously, WhatsApp will work on getting more users on its messaging and voice platform bringing the developed world closer to emerging ones.
India plays a big role for both Facebook and WhatsApp since 13 percent people access Internet in the country and the smartphone sales in India increased by 166.8 percent making it the world’s fastest growing smartphone market in the last quarter of 2013.
With a vision of making the world a Facebook centric platform, $19 billion definitely looks small.
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