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On Whatsapp, Its Telco Relationships In India & Other IMs

Lets face it: it's difficult to be a paid app in India - you're unlikely to ever achieve mass scale without being free, and even if yours is a paid app, you're unlikely to have a substantive business unless you're cheating consumers through automated subscriptions or billing without consent. Whatsapp, probably the largest mobile Internet based messaging app, which had adopted a freemium model and appears to have achieved massive scale in India with its free offering, was never really going to go paid. Instead, it signed a telco partnership deal with Reliance Communications to offer free access (alongwith free Facebook access, SMS at Rs 0.05 each, group SMS at Rs 3 each) for Rs 16/month. What will make people switch from Whatsapp The Indian market has a large number of competitors for Whatsapp  - Bharti Softbank’s Hike, Imsy, Tencent’s WeChat, Micromax’s Hookup, among several gazillion others - and the Indian consumer would probably switch to one of the free alternatives in two circumstances: a significant outage (which, if you're a Whatsapp competitor, you should be prepared to make the most of), or a situation where customers have to pay to use. What Whatsapp is probably trying to do Whatsapp has deftly addressed the latter issue with a tie-up with its first telco deal in India: it is seeking to both consolidate its position as the leading mobile Internet messaging service in India, and also looking to grow its base with marketing support from Reliance Communications (it's being marketing on the RCOM homepage for now). Whatsapp and…

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Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

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