First WhatsApp, now WeChat eyes India growth

China’s largest Internet company, Tencent, is eyeing India for further growth for its messaging platform as it ventures overseas. It will be up against an increasingly crowded market where rivals such as Whatsapp have had a headstart.

Chinese Internet giant Tencent is hoping to find a new pillar of growth in India for its WeChat messaging platform, to build on the 300 million users it has worldwide. It's now looking to offer mobile games and monetize the platform via brand association. Already, its other flagship messenger called QQ, aimed at a younger crowd, has 700 million users worldwide.

According to, Tencent's goal is to have WeChat compete globally with other messengers, such as WhatsApp and BlackBerry's instant messaging BBM service. Other players in this market include Nimbuzz, which claims to have 150 million users worldwide, Hike , LINE and KakaoTalk .

WeChat Group
WeChat is available across iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Nokia S40, and BlackBerry. (credit: WeChat)

To further secure their place with the Indian retail scene, Tencent already has agreements with brands such as Coffee Café Day, Big Bazaar, Goibibo, Yahoo Cricket, Tradus, and Santa Banta. However, a monetization model with the Indian brands is still not in place, even though WeChat was launched in India last year in August 2012.

Currently, WeChat is available in 220 countries, with Indonesia and Malaysia being the top overseas markets.

WeChat is obviously is cause for worry for telcos amid shrinking SMS revenues as more turn toward the free OTT service . In India, sending a local or national SMS can cost anywhere between 1 rupee (US$0.02) to 3 rupees (US$0.05), depending on what network you are with and if you are roaming.

However, come this October, even roaming charges will be dropped within India. The standard rate for sending international SMS is 5 rupees (US$0.09), from all networks in India, going outbound. Compared to the West, this is still quite affordable as prices from the West can easily be 10 times the rate as from India.

If Indian telecom operators want a piece of the messaging action , I personally feel they should enter an alliance or advertising partnership, to retain current subscribers and reach out for new ones. For example, Reliance Communications has an exclusive partnership with WhatsApp , and Aircel is partnering with Nimbuzz . Having co-branded messaging apps could benefit the Indian telecom operators, as SMS contribute towards 5 to 6 percent to their overall revenue, and this is currently in decline , not just in India, but worldwide.