Sources in India reveal that Google is developing its own mobile messaging application based on the WhatsApp model.
Instant messaging services are these days the most sought-after mobile tools among firms looking to turn avid Internet users into customers. These messaging services are achieving extraordinary user retention rates, providing a user-friendly experience on which marketers can capitalise.
WhatsApp now has 600 million loyal active users every month, and over ten billion messages are exchanged on the service every day. This prompted Facebook, which has been having a tough time retaining young users lately, to stump up $19 billion to acquire the young company in February in order to avoid being overshadowed by WhatsApp’s popularity.
The web giants now seem to have a definite strategy of bringing this type of innovative service within their own ambit. The relentless acquisition drive being pursued by the leading Internet players has seen them shifting little by little away from their core businesses, as they fight to gain and retain the upper hand along the entire value chain. Another striking example of this trend is Snapchat, whose highly popular photo messaging app enables the receiver to view a given photo for a short period only, ranging from one to ten seconds. The startup has reportedly turned down an offer from Facebook worth $3 billion and an offer of $4 billion from Google – all before the young company has even come up with a workable business model.
Nikhyl Singhal, one of Google’s top product managers, has made several trips to the Asia Pacific region, in particular to India, to study the local markets. The Mountain View giant is now looking to launch its own mobile messaging app, starting out by testing it in India before moving to other emerging markets.
It should come as no surprise that the big Internet players should be keen to take a slice of this type of messaging service, given the huge user enthusiasm in the countries concerned. The number of smartphones in use in China is forecast to reach 420 million in 2014, and India is expected to become the second-largest market for smartphones in the world, behind China, by 2019. A messaging service developed by Google initially for India, along the lines of Tencent-owned mobile text and voice messaging service WeChat, which already has 400 million users in China, could provide a promising new market entry point for the search and Big Data specialist.
These recent moves by Facebook and Google do not appear to be mere one-off thrusts into a popular market segment but part of a general strategy of building a broad ecosystem and widening the entry points for their products and services.