India is becoming a hotbed of activity in the instant messenger space: after WeChat and LINE, South African mobile messaging company Mxit is making its way to the country. The company announced its launch in Hyderabad earlier this week, with the opening of an office in the city. It’s hosting another launch event today in Delhi, and has appointed former Cricketer Gary Kirsten as its Brand Ambassador in the country.
Sam Rufus Nallaraj will be heading Mxit’s initiatives in India, as the CEO of Mxit India Pvt Ltd.
Mxit is currently available in English and Hindi, and the company is working towards offering 10 Indian languages (Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Assamese and Oriya) within 6 months. It’s an app that also works on feature phones, so apart from iOS, Android, and Windows, it is also available in a Java for feature phones. Despite the proliferation of smartphones in India, and smartphones being available at Rs 4,000 (sub-$100) the country remains a largely feature phone market, even though the switch is imminent. Mxit claims to work across 8,000 different phones. It claims that around 46% of mobile Internet users are on its platform in South Africa: a feat, in terms of percentage, that even Whatsapp hasn’t been able to achieve in the country, despite having around monthly active 36 million users.
Naspers Had Exited Mxit In 2011
What’s interesting about Mxit is that it’s a company that Naspers bought stake in, and then exited. Mxit was early in the messaging game, when Naspers picked up 30% in it in 2007, but Naspers chose to exit the company in 2011. Investment firm World of Avatar picked up 90% stake in Mxit in 2011. It’s also worth noting that Naspers owned Ibibo had launched WeChat, the messaging service from Naspers investee Tencent, in India in 2012, before Tencent and Naspers decided to go their separate ways in the country in 2013.
Mxit allows sending of audio clips, group chats , photo sharing, mood updates, option for disabling avatars to reduce data consumption, creation of multiple profiles, and incorporates apps for sports, news, weather, entertainment, education, learning tools and more.
Like WeChat, it allows users to follow celebrities and brands, and includes games and puzzles. Mxit also works with corporates to enable internal communication, training, reporting and analytics. Non profits like HIV prevention service LoveLife are offering counseling on Mxit in South Africa.
Unlike WeChat, which restricts access to its API for providing services, Mxit opened up its API to developers last year. Developers monetize through micropayments and advertising. More on that here. While this data is outdated, as of March 2013, Mxit had 126 developers, 219 apps, and served 614 million API calls in March last year.
Mobile Messaging & Social Networking Apps In India
The following mobile messaging and social networking apps have a formal presence in India, or have done deals with Mobile Operators: Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, WeChat, Hike, LINE, Viber, Nimbuzz, Plustxt, Rocketalk, Mig33, Imsy, Gupshup Messenger, JaxtrSMS, ChatON (Samsung), Pinch (Affle). Please not that this is not an exhaustive list. We probably missed 20-30 others.
P.S.: Waiting for someone to launch an app called YAIMA: Yet Another Instant Messaging App.