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WhatsApp signs telco deal with Airtel; claims to have 50M active users in India

WhatsApp Airtel

Well, this is an interesting move: Popular mobile messaging app WhatsApp has inked its third fourth telco deal with India’s largest telco Bharti Airtel to launch WhatsApp only data packs, reports BGR India.

These packs are priced between Rs 36 to Rs 49 depending on the circle, with Jammu & Kashmir being the cheapest at Rs 36 and Mumbai being the costliest at Rs 49. It will offer users 200MB of WhatsApp usage per month and one can activate these plans by texting ‘WhatsApp’ to 121.

This is WhatsApp’s fourth telco deal after signing deals with Reliance Communications in October 2012, Tata Docomo in December 2013 and Uninor in March this year.

However, this deal is particularly interesting since one of WhatsApp’s competitor Hike has been built by a Bharti Enterprises group company Bharti Softbank (BSB). Last September, Bharti Airtel had also signed a deal with Hike to allow Airtel prepaid customers to use the service without any data charges for three months.

It’s also interesting because Airtel has usually been the slowest to move when it comes to partnering for applications and services. This is because it tends to hold out for most leverage in a deal, unless it can leverage the partnership for marketing and promotion, like it did in case of free Twitter access.

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WhatsApp claims to have 50 million users in India

Coinciding with this deal, WhatsApp claims to have now crossed 50 million monthly active user mark in India, up from 48 million monthly active users a fortnight ago. WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum had then mentioned that India is the largest market for WhatsApp which claims to have 500 million monthly active users worldwide.

The company is currently hiring for a business head for the Indian market as a part of its expansion plans for this year, along with a few other markets. It was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in February 2013.

While none of WhatsApp’s competitors disclose its monthly active users base for India, which we feel is a true measure for a messaging app, Bharti Softbank-backed Hike & Viber had claimed to have 15 million registered users in February 2014, while LINE had claimed to have 18 million registered users last month.Tencent’s mobile messaging app WeChat hasn’t disclosed its India user base but globally it is the second largest mobile messaging app with 355 million monthly active users as of end 2013, just behind WhatsApp.

Also read:

– On Telecom vs Internet in a post WhatsApp Voice scenario
– WhatsApp’s Business Head Neeraj Arora on Carrier Deals & Voice, Biz Dev Plans, India, Payments
– WhatsApp’s Business Head Neeraj Arora on Integration Of Services, The Facebook Deal & Why He Joined WhatsApp

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