Google is reportedly planning to launch a WhatsApp-like free mobile messaging app in India and other emerging markets, reports The Economic Times. This messenger is in early stages of development and is expected to be launched in 2015, the report said citing sources. The report also claims that it won’t be mandatory for Google’s messaging app users to use their Google logins. The company is also apparently planning to localize the product by introducing Indic language support and voice-to-text messaging.
While Google’s hold on search still remains strong, the Mountain View, California-based company has failed to make an impact on the social and the social on mobile segments. Google’s highly anticipated social network Google+ turned out to be a disappointment. Also, Google’s forced integration of several Google+ features to its other popular products/services like YouTube, Google Calendar, and Gmail among others wasn’t appreciated by most users. And why didn’t Google offer Hangouts as a separate product?
But if Google had been late in jumping onto the social bandwagon, it has left it till really late to enter the social on mobile space. It’s really surprising, considering that Google owns the most widely used mobile operating system. Blackberry, which even during its heydays was used by far fewer people, had managed to turn its BBM messaging service into a brand and a service everyone wanted on their phones. Google’s mobile messaging app will have to contend with a number of competitors, including Line, WeChat, Hike and Viber, besides WhatsApp.
WhatsApp, which claims to have close to 65 million monthly active users in India, has been rapidly growing into the default mobile messaging app on Indian smartphones. For many users, it has become an integral part of their work and personal lives. However, it’s also true that India isn’t a significant revenue market for the company either. As of April this year, Japanese messaging app Line claimed to have 18 million registered users in India, though it isn’t clear how many of them are active users. The company decided against an initial public offering (IPO) this year as it felt it had been growing a decent pace. Rakuten’s Viber mobile messaging service claimed to have over 15 million users in India. In August this year, Hike CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal had told Medianama that Hike had crossed 35 million registered users, up from 20 million in June this year with over 50% active every month.
That being said, there’s still ample opportunity for a mobile messaging app to grow in the Indian market. India has over 900 million mobile connections (pdf) (as of March 31, 2014), of which just about 150 million are active mobile internet users.
What’s happening with Hangouts?
Based on the activities centered around Hangouts, it would seem that Google is turning it into a platform. Brands are now selling products through shoppable Hangouts, TV shows and live sports and entertainment is being broadcast through Google Hangouts, and Hangouts On Air broadcasts live concerts (directly competing with YouTube Live). So, we can safely assume that in the future Hangouts will no longer be directly competing with other messaging services.