Twitter and Zipdial announced yesterday that they had reached an agreement whereby the microblogging giant would be buying the Bangalore-based company, thus ending media speculations over the past few days.
Financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. However, Valerie Wagoner, Founder and CEO of ZipDial told us that Zipdial’s existing brand partnerships will be carried over post acquisition and the majority of the 50 member Zipdial team will also make the transition to Twitter.
For Twitter, which has stated that its focus is on increasing user base in India and other emerging geographies, this move might prove significant. Speaking about the acquisition, Twitter stated, “Over the next several years, billions of people will come online for the first time in countries like Brazil, India and Indonesia. For many, their first online experience will be on a mobile device— but the cost of data may prevent them from experiencing the true power of the Internet. Twitter, in partnership with ZipDial, can make great content more accessible to everyone.”
Zipdial is mainly known for its “Missed Call marketing” feature that allows users to connect to business by placing a missed call and it is tempting to assume that this feature was the primary reason why Twitter showed interest. In fact, Twitter has done a number of campaigns with Zipdial using this feature in recent months. But the platform is much more than just about missed calls, argues Rishi Jaitley, Market Director (India and Southeast Asia) for Twitter. “It is a platform to connect offline to online,” he said. So, what exactly is Twitter looking for?
For an earlier interview with Rishi Jaitley, click here - The DNA of television and Twitter is the same: Rishi Jaitly
In a conference call with exchange4media yesterday, Jaitley, admitted that Zipdial would, “dramatically accelerate our ability to drive user growth in India.”
Let us take some statistics that Wagoner gave us. According to him, Zipdial has 500+ big brand customers across India and South-east Asia with 1 billion+ connections across 60 million+ consumers.
“The behaviour of mobile users in India is unique. For example, 93 per cent users are on prepaid, which is not seen in other countries. Only about 1 in 3 users has a data plan. The challenge is how do such users get access to Twitter content,” he says.
This is exactly why Zipdial makes sense for Twitter; a company that prides itself in being “mobile-first”. When asked what interested Twitter in Zipdial, Jaitley mentioned the ability to deliver content across all interfaces, including voice, SMS, app download, etc. “It (Zipdial) is a bridge across interfaces. On top of that we can build intelligence around the users, irrespective of where they come from. Twitter began as an extension of the SMS and the ability to have a team who know how to acquire and retain users across mobile platforms is what attracted us,” he said.
So how does this acquisition connect with Twitter’s overall strategy of increasing their user base in India and developing geographies? It comes down to evangelism and exposure.
Conversations around topics like politics and entertainment have increased 600 per cent and 200 per cent respectively last year. Sports is another category that has seen growth in recent years, so there is definitely no death of content for different tastes. The trick is to expose non-active users or those who have not yet signed on to the experience. This is where Zipdial comes into the picture, according to Jaitley. “The very first thing for seeing value in Twitter is to get exposed to the great content available on it,” explains Jaitley.
“The opportunity that follows is to understand the user so that when they actually move to Twitter, we know them better,” he further added. There is an existing use case for this, according to him.who Twitter’s earlier “experiments” with Zipdial with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, MTV India, among others, led to the addition of new users to Twitter, says Jaitley. It is something that Twitter wants to explore more in depth and for Zipdial it provides an opportunity to get a more global exposure.
It is yet not clear how the two will function in the immediate future. When asked, Wagoner said that there were some “exciting” things in the pipeline without providing any specifics. The acquisition is an interesting move by Twitter and could affect not only user base but also on the revenue side.
In its Q3’14 results, Twitter said its advertising revenue totalled $320 million, an increase of 109% year-over-year.
Twitter Q3'14 results show $175 million loss as user base grows by 23 per cent
Twitter saw almost 85 per cent of the total ad revenue came from mobile, up from 70 per cent last quarter; the highest for any social media platform. However, revenue from Non-US geographies was just 34 per cent of the total revenue. Also, perhaps in keeping with its growth focused strategy, Twitter has still not launched its self-serving ads for SMBs in India, which account for 45 per cent of its global monthly active user base.