Tencent’s mobile IM and social network, WeChat, has been growing reasonably well since being launched internationally in 2012. In India, it is being promoted by Ibibo, in which Tencent has a stake. Backed by aggressive promotions, including endorsements by Bollywood actors such as Parineeti Chopra and Varun Dhawan, WeChat is looking to gain a foothold in the Indian IM market.
The application, which is highly popular in China and boasts of almost 100 million users there, has a bouquet of m-commerce services, including online payments, a proposed wealth management solution, virtual credit cards, etc. However, the company feels that the time is not right to bring these services to India. Speaking to exchange4media, Nilay Arora, VP, Marketing & BD, WeChat said, “We are not looking to bring m-commerce to India right now as the market is not mature enough to introduce mobile payments.”
WeChat does partner with brands such as Hungama Music, Cafe Coffee Day and PVR Cinemas by allowing them to build ‘Official Accounts’ on its platform, which can then utilise the WeChat network to offer location-based services, etc., to subscribers. A similar deal with local search engine AskMe allows it to provide location-specific local searches, deals and classifieds.
When quizzed about the business model for India, Arora informed that some revenue came in from in-app and in-game purchases (through WeChat games), but added that revenue is not the focus area right now.
Some analysts have predicted that the Indian m-commerce market will grow at a CAGR of 71.06 per cent between 2012 and 2016. Though WeChat does not reveal country-wise data, Tencent officials said that they had a registered base of more than 200 million users globally as of November 2013 (not including 100 million in China), with approximately 276 million monthly active users. Other mobile IM apps such as Nimbuzz has approximately 25 million users in India with around 150 million globally (as of 2013). WhatsApp claims to have 40 million users in India with about 450 million worldwide.
Meanwhile, in a set-back to Tencent, the China’s central bank asked internet companies like Tencent and Alibaba to halt payments made by bar code scanning with mobile amid security concerns over their verification procedures.