Mobile social network Mig 33 announced that they have crossed the sales of 40 million virtual gifts in 2010, and according to India Head Mohit Gundecha, almost half of this was done by Indians, both in India and abroad. The company also revealed that in India, sales of virtual gifts had doubled last year as the company had spread its network to over 100 cities.
To try and understand where the sales for these virtual goods are coming from, and to understand the motivation of users in making these purchases, Mig 33 recently carried out a survey amongst 360 users, the results of which they have shared today. According to the company, the push for their network has come from Tier II cities like Indore, Bhopal and Jaipur; and Tier III like Allahabad, Ajmer, Madurai and Amritsar, while adoption in Tier I cities like Delhi and Mumbai has been limited.
The network’s monetisation is based entire around microtransactions, which are carried out through coupons sold by resellers from within the network, who buy a minimum of Rs 5,000 worth of Mig credits, which they can then sell to their friends within the network.
Real identity versus Aspirational identity
Chris Chandler, VP - Business Development, Mig 33, said, “We offer chats, groups, connect with other networks like Google Talk and Facebook chat as well, and along with that, there are social games and virtual gifts, which have been extremely popular in India. People who don’t have the confidence or the social skill to make friends easily in the real world come to our network and connect with people and buy them gifts and make friends, so it builds a really passionate community around the network.”
He added, “People don’t use their own pictures on our network. We give them customisable avatars, which they can dress up or change the hairstyle or add a background by paying a small amount, between Rs 3 and Rs 15 for it, because our network isn’t about your identity. It’s about your aspirational identity.”
Gundecha also said, “People in Tier I cities use Facebook to connect with the friends that they already know. If a stranger sends a request on Facebook, you are likely to click ignore. On Mig 33, you enter public chat rooms, and participate in community events and make friends with people you don’t know.”
The microtransaction model, where individual items are in the sub $1 category has been explored by many companies, and according to Chandler, Indians had been happy to accept the model. He said, “Our gifts are localised, and very popular. So, for Diwali, we offered gifts and avatar customisations, some for as little as Rs 2, others went up to Rs 14, and on Diwali, 260,000 virtual gifts were sold to our customers.”
The users come from small towns around India. Chandler said, “Our technology is not cutting edge. We’re not looking at the iPhone. Instead, we’re looking to create technology which is compatible with as many users as possible. We’re reaching out to people on featurephones, with data connections on less than Rs 50, and we reach a lot of people like that.”
Love/ dating the most popular category
According to Gundecha, the most popular virtual gifts were hugs and kisses. He said, “There are taboos in small towns when it comes to interacting with people of the opposite gender. Here, we provide a healthy, anonymous outlet. Love and dating items are the most popular across all cities, and the most popular was a hug, and the next was a kiss.”
Social gaming, similar to Zynga, is also an element of Mig 33’s network, and users can also buy virtual items here. According to the survey, 34 per cent of the users felt that their status on the social games reflected their status in the social network.
These results are based on a study of just 360 people, but provide some interesting insights on the use of mobile networks in smaller towns and cities, and Gundecha said that Mig 33 would be carrying out the survey more frequently and with a wider base for more detailed results and insights as well.
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