Mobile messaging company WhatsApp, which claims more users than Twitter's 200 million, is looking to expand in India through tie-ups with telecom firms. The California-based company— which has an alliance with Reliance Communications— is talking to at least two other telecom service providers, Neeraj Arora, vice president for business development , told ET.
How many users do you now have in India?
We think of WhatsApp as a global company. We have more than 200 million active users, which is more than what Twitter has. We are delighted with how things have shaped up in the Indian market; we are the number one application on Apple's iOS and number one free application on Android in India.
What is the current revenue model and how do you plan to expand it?
We believe a great product is one that users will pay for. Our business model has always revolved around that. We were always a paid application on iOS; on Android and other platforms it's free for the first year and then users have to pay around Rs 55 for an annual subscription.
Will subscriptions be the only revenue stream?
I don't want to comment on the model going forward. We don't want to introduce advertisements as it won't be a pleasurable experience for the users when they are talking to their friends, colleagues, family. It's a very personal , private product. The other reason is that we don't want to collect data from the users for the advertisements.
Will this position continue even in future?
We are very different from other companies like Google, Facebook or Yahoo. Our founders came from Yahoo and they actually saw how the mechanism works with advertising. You have to collect a lot of data to have targeted advertisements. It's a very strong stance that we have taken and I think we are going to stick with it. I don't think users would mind paying a nominal fee to keep advertisements away.
Will there be more tie-ups with telecom companies in India?
We are definitely talking to a few. There is nothing to announce right now. But there is a lot of excitement around us, and we're very happy that the Reliance partnership is doing so well. And you'll hear more from us in a few months.
WhatsApp has been in the news as a possible target for acquisition, first by Facebook and recently by Google...
We haven't commented on these rumours. We don't spend our time thinking about whether we should sell the company to Google or Facebook or any other company. We spend all our time actually trying to build the product , having a partnership with carriers to grow the business.
Do you see use of WhatsApp for business communication?
We want to focus on the consumer angle. It is a very utilitarian application to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues. But we have started seeing some cases where a small company of 10 people has a group chat going on. I have seen some examples of this in India, where there are some online food delivery services that are accepting orders through WhatsApp. But we don't want to position WhatsApp as a B2B (business-to-business ) product.
With your background as mergers and acquisitions head at Google, will you pursue a similar path for WhatsApp?
We are open to it. As the company grows, it makes sense to do acquisitions , especially in the technology space, where things move very fast. But we're not in a hurry to start acquiring.