WeChat makes headway in India

Chinese mobile messaging provider says it's the leading app in Google Play and Apple App Store in India, following a series of marketing campaigns targeted at the local market.
Written by Abhishek Baxi, Contributor on

WeChat says it has been growing both in numbers as well as visibility in India, following a slew of marketing campaigns targeted at the local market. 

In a crowded market dominated by global leader WhatsApp, and emerging local players like Hike, WeChat claims its aggressive push and great feature set helped the mobile messaging service gain mindshare and engage the audience in a fun and exciting manner.

WeChat is also promoted in India via games site Ibibo, in which Tencent holds a stake. According to the company, the app is currently ranked No.1 on Google Play and Apple App Store in India, and is the most downloaded app across all smartphone platforms.

Rahul Razdan, president of 10c India Internet which is Tencent's Indian subsidiary, says the company isn't fazed by the competition. "We respect all players in the ecosystem, but our focus currently is only on improving the user engagement within WeChat. It is a complete social communication platform where users can share content with all their friends, as well interact with their favorite brands, celebs, and merchants," Razdan said.

With the approach to building user engagement, the company recently also started offering official accounts for brands, celebrities, and merchants, helping these companies interact with their customers via a personalized two-way channel on the mobile messaging platform.

"We have also selectively released our SDK and API for developers to develop apps on WeChat," Rahul added. "WeChat is creating a unique ecosystem where users connect socially with their friends as well as engage with celebrities, brands, and businesses making it an all-in-one app, to serve the different needs of our users."

The app, initially called Weixin, was launched in China in January 2011 by Tencent. The company introduced support for international languages in October 2011, and rebranded the produce as WeChat in April 2012.

The app currently has 450 million registered users with huge influence in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. However, WeChat has been looking to grow adoption in Southeast Asia, particularly India, and has only 70 million users outside China.

While India is a growing mobile market with a huge number of potential users, the typical choice of mobile messaging service is driven by a herd mentality--go where your friends are. It's a tough challenge.

WeChat recently started mainstream advertising to generate buzz and drive adoption. The company roped in upcoming movie stars--Parineeti Chopra and Varun Dhawan--in a bid to build mass youth appeal. The advertisement featuring the two has been all over the Internet and television over the last couple of months.

The campaign was followed by WeChat signing up popular football player, Lionel Messi, as its global product ambassador earlier this month, and launching another series of online and television campaigns.

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