Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) owned WhatsApp has become a household name in every nook and corner of India with 70 million monthly active users in the country, speaks Neeraj Arora, Vice president for WhatsApp at the fifth annual INK Conference. The number accounts for nearly one-tenth of the entire global count of WhatsApp users, which amounts to 600 million users. Undoubtedly the cross platform messenger app has carved a niche in the Indian market and all the competitors, be it the home grown app Hike or WeChat the most popular messaging app in the global arena are green eyeing the strong foothold of WhatsApp. The company aims to tap into the huge customer base in countries like India and Brazil, which rank quite high in the smartphone adoption list.
With a surge in smartphone adoption among common masses, thanks to the smartphone players like Xiaomi, Motorola, Micromax and Lava who are providing smartphones for as low as US$105, there is also a relative hike in the social media penetration. Android One a Google initiative, targeting the first time Android users, wherein it presents a standard for the utilized software and underlying hardware. The handsets powered by Android One generally have stock Android minus the UI customizations or modifications which can’t be commonly seen in phones from well known smartphone vendors like Samsung, HTC, LG etc. In India Micromax, Spice and Karbonn have exclusively come up with Android One smartphones in the price range of Rs.5,700 – Rs.6,400 (US$100 – US$110). This initiative has made smartphones more affordable.
People tend to be lured towards social media when they buy a smartphone and it has become a common trend among smartphone users to embrace messaging apps like Whatsapp, WeChat, Viber etc instead of standard SMS. And as reports suggest, the hand in hand growth of smartphone market share and social media apps is going to continue up all the way in the coming years, especially in the emerging markets.
In a recent incident reported, the government officials in the state of Raipur, India have been ordered to use WhatsApp for effective communication across different levels of authorities. The additional Collector of Surajpur has directed the head of departments in all ranges to put to use the messaging application WhatsApp for official communication. Officials not owning a smartphone have to procure one and install WhatsApp for the same. The ability to pass on information in real time will prove crucial in effective administration says the Collectorate office, as directions issued by top-level authorities can be passed on to concerned officials for quick implementation and the decisions made at grass root levels can be effectively communicated to the higher officials.
Another report suggests, the medical fraternity is making use of the picture sharing feature of WhatsApp to relay ECG images of patients suffering from cardiac arrests or heart attacks, thereby aiding in quick and accurate medical assessment, which is invaluable in such cases.
Why WhatsApp is faring so well in comparison to other competitor’s is not a mystery. The major chunk of population leaping from a feature phone to a smart phone is rather ignorant of social media and works on the word of mouth. The simple user-interface seals the deal for nascent users. It’s pretty easy to figure things out even for a layman. The popularity of WhatsApp is so high that many smartphone companies are bound to provide it as a pre-installed application in most of their handsets.
Many smartphones manufactures have come up with offers where they sell in their devices with free data packs for few initial months for specific carriers. This kind of marketing has boosted the popularity of instant messaging particularly WhatsApp in India, directly or indirectly. The trend has shifted from texting “Wassup to IM’ing wassup on WhatsApp”
The company’s motto of providing quality service is reaping rewards for them. And lest they continue to do so the number is only going to go up.