China's biggest internet company Tencent is betting big on India with its mobile instant messaging service - WeChat - expecting to tap into the growing smartphone user base here, said a company executive. This comes at a time when some of the most successful Chinese internet firms, including e-commerce giant Alibaba and search engine biggie Baidu, are looking to move beyond their home market.
WeChat, which claims to have 300 million users globally, will also look to offer mobile games and monetize the platform through brand associations with merchants going forward, Dennis Hau, GM, international business group at Tencent, told TOI. The Hong Kong-listed company's flagship QQ messenger has 700 million users.
Over the past few years, telecom companies have lost out heavily on SMS revenue as more people have moved to instant messaging over their mobile phones. WeChat will compete with the likes of popular mobile app Whatsapp and BlackBerry's instant messaging service BBM. Other players in the market are Nimbuzz, which claims to have 150 million users while the recently launched Bharti Softbank's app Hike crossed 5 million users globally.
South African media group Naspers-backed Tencent said the company has struck partnerships with Cafe Coffee Day, Big Bazaar, Goibibo, Yahoo Cricket, Tradus and Santa Banta, but a monetization model was still not in place. "We will first look to get as many users as possible and then move on to getting commercial alliances in place," he said. Launched last year in August in India, WeChat globally does not charge subscribers for usage, worrying many mobile carriers.
Hau told TOI WeChat will be open to tying up with operators for bundled services going forward. "We are open to partnerships just like we have done in other markets. We will look to differentiate our product with features such as location based services and live video chat," he said.
WeChat, which started tapping the international market last year, is now available in 49 countries and counts Indonesia and Malaysia as its top markets.
Many telecom operators are now tying up with free instant messaging app services to shore up their data usage. Last year, Anil Ambani's Reliance Communications (RCom) announced an exclusive partnership with Whatsapp while Aircel said it was partnering with Nimbuzz; Facebook tied up with Airtel and RCom for its messenger app. Analysts tracking the telecom sector said SMSs which contribute about 5-6% to the overall revenue of operators will be hit severely with data consumption seeing an uptick. This has been the trend worldwide where mobile operators have lost out on text revenues with the penetration of mobile internet.