The blue bird of micro-blogging site Twitter is spreading its wings farther in the Indian market. The San Francisco-based social networking site has announced the acquisition of India-based ZipDial, a start-up that offers missed-call facilitated mobile marketing, aimed at mobile users without access to the Internet, in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia and Brazil.
In an interview with BusinessLine , Rishi Jaitly, Market Director of Twitter India, and Valerie Wagoner, Founder & CEO, ZipDial, explain how the deal will help the company reach more mobile users in the next couple of years. Edited excerpts:
What does this deal mean for Twitter and ZipDial?
Rishi Jaitly: In the last couple of years, Indians have flocked to Twitter in a big way to keep up with the news in time of important events, political developments, sporting events and, of course, entertainment, comedy, and many other genres. The level of expression skyrocketed on our platform in the last couple of years. The level of political conversation has gone up by 600 per cent; properties like Satyameva Jayate and Jhalak Dikhla Ja have seen conversation go up by 300 per cent. There is perhaps no better illustration to our commitment to drive consumer growth in India, to this market and our interest to make Twitter extraordinarily acceptable.
Today’s acquisition of ZipDial will make it achieve that. We have a partnership with ZipDial where many celebrities have used the platform to send in their tweets to users, irrespective of the data plan, network and whether they were offline. We will be spending more time in the coming months ensuring that Twitter is even more accessible for all Indian mobile users.
ZipDial also had a partnership with Facebook, so what made it go with Twitter?
Valerie: The kind of impact that we all have with Twitter, the acceleration of growth, and making Twitter more accessible to users across the world, especially emerging markets, was really exciting.
Rishi: What we are observing today and we are announcing today is the coming together of two mobile-first companies. One of the things about ZipDial that we have been extraordinarily impressed with is that they have taken lot of care to think about mobile users.
So, what happens with the ZipDial team after the acquisition? What happens to the engineering team in Bengaluru?
Valerie: My co-founder and I will be working with the Twitter Product Organisation and drive growth. We are a team of over 50 people and the majority of us will be joining Twitter. The product team will continue from Bengaluru and all the products that we have created over the last five years will become a part of Twitter. We will be coming up with more products this year.
When you started ZipDial did you plan for a sale or did this come up as an opportunity?
Valerie: Well, this really came up as an opportunity. We always had this vision of disrupting the way mobile marketing or engagement is done in emerging markets. And we were growing very strongly, with over 60 million users across the multiple markets we operate in, and made more than one billion connections between the users and the over 500 brands that we have. We also had a great partnership with Twitter and a lot of natural synergy between everything we have been building together, and we intend to expand together.
What is your growth expectation this year?
Rishi: The year 2014 was a very successful year for us from the growth standpoint and adoption standpoint. We expect 2015 to be even better. This year, apart from sales, marketing, media and business development, we will have product and engineering leadership in India and that is a testament on how seriously we take this market. Besides, we will be investing significantly in the Indian market.
Where does Twitter see itself in the entire gamut of enabling more users to get on the internet first and then using services like Twitter?
Valerie: This is where ZipDial comes in. More than a billion people in this market will be coming online for the first time, and through mobiles, in the very near term. That is a phenomenal opportunity. It is really about reaching them and giving them a fast user experience to bridge them from offline to online.