For an app that has over 460 million unique users and over 608 million registered users, it was only a matter of time before Viber decided to go beyond instant messaging, voice and calls. So Viber has started rolling out what it calls Public Chat, which is essentially a social media platform for users to engage with celebrities, personalities and brands.
India is Viber’s largest market with over 33 million users and they have gone big in India by roping in biggies like Sachin Tendulkar, Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh among others. Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, seems to have taken the platform seriously and has already a handful of posts and over 11,000 followers. “You can’t help but be excited when the counter of followers starts to tick. There are some chats that we opened in UK last week with over 3,00,000 followers and similar numbers in Philippines. We are sure to see similar numbers in India too,” Mark Hardy, Chief Marketing Officer of Viber, told indianexpress.com.
He says Viber’s social media platform is different from Twitter and Facebook, which had no followers when they started. For the record, Whatsapp has over 70 million users in India and 600 million globally.
“We are switching on social with a user base of 460 million users worldwide. They are already there. The way I see it is that we have almost got a responsibility to our users to deliver from Day 1,” says Hardy, adding that he is convinced that it is not the technology alone that kickstarts the platform.
On whether users will get confused with the advent of another social platform, Hardy said: “The mobile and OTT messaging space has exploded in the past few months. Users are rationalising their app usage and it is only natural for them to start looking for more in the apps that engage them the most,” says Hardy.
Hardy says Viber, which was focussed on acquiring users this year, will start looking at retention from next year. This is where new features like Public Chat and their recently announced gaming service will help. The gaming service, along with the paid sticker packs already play an important role in raking in revenue for the company.
“We are a micro-payment business where a big user base spends a small amount of money. Our revenue comes from stickers which retail at $1.99 and Viber Out which lets users call mobile phones at a subsidised rate,” explains Hardy, adding that the gaming service will also add to their revenues when launched. However, he says it is too early to talk about cost per acquisition as they are not working on traditional methods.
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