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Upbeat on messaging space, WeChat looks to increase India presence

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 - 8:25am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: dna

To set up sales and marketing office in Bangalore

Text and voice messaging service WeChat is looking at aggressively enhancing its presence in India.

The app, developed by Chinese firm Tencent in January 2011, was started in India early last year.

"And in one-and-a-half years time, around 42% of smartphone users in India are using WeChat. Initially when we launched in India, just 3-4% of smartphone users accessed us. This shows the growth," says Nilay Arora, vice president, WeChat India.

As per industry numbers, there are 156 million smartphone users in India at present.

The other strong player in the messaging space, WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion, has over 40 million active users in India.

At the global level, against the 450 million active users that WhatsApp boasts of, WeChat has around 355 million monthly active users.

"We will use different approaches to expand our reach. We plan to demonstrate the app and educate users, and have them sample the app personally. We will hold around 50-100 programmes in colleges and malls," says Arora.

Around 79% of WeChat users comprise those in the below 34 years category, with the age group between 16-24 years being prime users. Politics, beauty products, science and technology seem to be the topics people discus most on the app.

"The smartphone market in the country is still at a nascent stage, with many people still learning to use the device. Once growth picks up in the smartphone space, user base of messaging platforms will
automatically increase," says Arora.

The smartphone base in India is expected to reach 364 million in the coming months.

While its India office is based in Gurgaon, WeChat plans to open a sales and marketing centre in Bangalore soon.

WeChat has tied with 10-15 brands including PVR, Dainik Jagran, Cafe Coffee Day, Colours TV, Hungama, BBC etc to provide services to users like coupons, music, news, etc.

"We are trying to offer more than just text and voice messaging. On top of people-to-people conversations are other services that will add value to the app," says Arora, adding that in China, people use WeChat for transferring money, or purchasing insurance. "Lot more action will be seen in India also."

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