The popularity of BlackBerry’s and iOS’ messenger services have opened up avenues for independent services such as WeChat, Nimbuzz and Rocketalk.

The messaging segment, called peer-to-peer communication, is also threatening traditional short messaging services (SMSes), rather than complimenting it, thanks to cheaper data services.

Embedded Apps

Messenger services are increasingly placing themselves as a social platform where you can send voice messages and photos, apart from text messages.

Companies are also in talks with handset vendors and original equipment makers (OEMs) for coming out with embedded or pre-installed applications.

“Having a pre-embedded app saves the user from downloading the messenger service and reduces dependence on operator’s data connectivity,” Rahul Razdan, President, Games and Mobile, ibibo said.

WeChat, marketed by ibibo in India, is one such messenger service that is in talks with various OEMs for embedded applications. Currently available on Karbon’s and Lemon’s Android-enabled handsets only, WeChat is expected to spread to MTS Coolpad MTag, HCL and Zen tablets, Huwaei’s Android devices and Sony’s Xperia series. These devices are expected to be in the market by November.

Re-positioning

Nimbuzz, the other major player in the market, too, has similar tie-ups with 100-odd OEMs, while Rocketalk is in talks with Nokia for similar applications.

Moving away from plain text messaging, companies are now positioning themselves as a social messaging platform.

Nimbuzz, for example, allows integration of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Cost Benefits

“All messenger services started off as text messaging platforms. But keeping in mind rising popularity and increasing need for peer-to-peer communication, platforms are evolving. The move is from an instant messaging ecosystem to a more social medium,” Jogy Babu, Head, Operations, Nimbuzz, said.

WeChat and Rocketalk also allow multimedia and voice messaging, and photo-sharing. Rocketalk allows you to upload videos while interest groups (hangouts). What is more, they come at fraction of the cost of sending an SMS or an MMS.

According to industry sources, a traditional 160-character SMS costs between 30 paise and Re 1 on a mobile platform. The same though will cost around 10 paise if sent through these messaging platforms. Equally cheaper will be multimedia messages — from Rs 5 it will come down to a maximum of Rs 2.

On messenger platforms, only data charges apply, making them a cheaper option, Sameer Agarwal, Chief Marketing Officer, Rocketalk, said.

Estimates suggest that in India there is a mere 10 per cent conversion of SMS traffic to message platforms. In developed markets, this conversion rate is as high as 40 per cent.

“Given increased penetration, this percentage will soon change,” Agarwal added.

abhishek.l@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 17, 2012)
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