Source : My Mobile | View Original
They used to be once used mainly on computers but now instant messengers have come to handsets and are threatening SMS itself. Anuj Kumar, CEO, Affle talks about where the IM industry is heading in the country Heena Jatav
Instant messengers were introduced in 2004. How have they evolved since?
When instant messengers (IMs) were introduced, they were primary Internet IM's like Yahoo and MSN messenger. As mobile phones started getting Internet access, the popularity of BBM grew, which was really the first revolutionary product that allowed people to create an alternate to SMS but had its own challenges. The third phase was where the whole messaging experience started happening on social media. The fourth phase was when we started seeing the emergence of cross messaging applications products like Pinch, WhatsApp, Nimbuzz which allowed users to message each other to across platforms. We noticed that the reason why people moved to IMs over SMS was that IMs were actually cost efficient, far richer, much more engaging and a more expressive way of communication.
So are you saying that the adoption of IMs is ringing a death knell for SMS in the country?
I think it is. Clearly IMs are creating reasons for people not to SMS. The communication through SMS has significantly reduced. SMS is not dying, it still lives but its importance in our lives has come down significantly and I think carriers are also seeing a decline in growth on SMS traffic.
What is the current market share of IMs in India? Where does Affle stand?
The sad part is that there is no third party audit that happens in this space. So it is difficult to get exact figures. Carriers in their annual report reveal the amount of SMS usage happening in this quarter’s report, they have shown a decline. SMS traffic decline does not mean that SMS usage has stopped. Data from reports of carriage show that now messaging has been heading over to some other means i.e. IMs. If we talk about our messenger Pinch, then there are approximately 500+ million messages exchanges every rnonth, which is a huge number in terms of messages been exchanged by consumers.
What are the factors boosting the usage of lMs in the country?
Growing smartphone penetration at cheaper prices and better availability of phones is certainly one, Second is the decreasing cost of data. Third is the greater percentage of users moving to bulk data plans and fourth is the socio-economic factor in which people are creating big social groups for themselves. These are key factors which are boosting this industry.
If TRAI recommendations for 2G spectrum are accepted, there is a strong possibility that call tariffs will he hiked. Would that represent a growth opportunity for IMs?
That is something which is really going to help the IM industry for sure. Also the data rates are going down and now even 3G service charges have been slashed. So on one side if call rates are going up, definitely people will opt for bulk data plans. Both of these factors taken together will help the IM industry grow at a much faster pace going forward.
What growth rate do you see for the 1M market in India?
I think the overall IM messaging market even today is growing at 10 to 15 percent. Going forward, irrespective of whether call rates get hiked, this market will grow much faster. As per internal trends we are seeing that in two years this 10-15 per cent will increase to 35-40 per cent.