Like how the Indian cricket team won the 2011 World Cup with South African cricketer Gary Kirsten as their coach, Mxit is poised to win the messaging app game with Gary as their brand ambassador. Gary is in India, a place he calls his second home, right now for the launch of Mxit India.
Today at Taj Krishna Hotel Hyderabad, in a city where Mxit’s Indian headquarter is located, the South African mobile social networking platform launched in India officially. In the past , we have watched mobile disrupt every industry in every country, and continue to break its own records year after year. With this backdrop, Mxit is batting to score a century in the messaging space.
What is Mxit?
We had written about Mxit, pioneer of the mobile social network application, earlier when they launched their version 7. Mxit is a mobile messaging app founded in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2005. Mxit is an OTT (over the top) app – this means customers do not pay the telecoms for service unlike text messages or MMS. It has nearly 10 million monthly active users in Africa. Mxit is available on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and Nokia smart phone platforms (Windows phone is still in the pipeline). However, Mxit goes a step further with its offering for feature phones allowing you to chat with friends with feature phones – the ‘normal’ phones as some would call it. The promise of Mxit is to take these dumb phones and make them smart and facilitate seamless communication across the board.
Mxit India Chairman Roger Grobler said that in peak days, the platform handles 800,000 million messages a day. To put that in context, Twitter does 500,000 million tweets a day.
Promoting digital inclusiveness in India
For the past one year, Mxit India team in Hyderabad were keeping their head down and working day and night to optimize Mxit for India. The company is not just deploying a cookie cutter product that worked in South Africa to India. It actually Indianized Mxit for this country with localized operations. It supports vernacular languages like Hindi as of now. Another 11 regional languages are coming to the network in the next six months.
The feature phone market in India is much bigger than that of the smart phone; though the smart phone market is growing, according to a recent report released by Nielsen. There are more than half a billion of these feature phones in circulation currently.
India has population of 121 crores, where there are more than 60 crore use feature phones. There is nothing more exciting for Mxit than to be here in India and give these 60 crore users a sense of digital inclusiveness in this information age.
Sam Rufus CEO of Mxit India said: “The feature phone market is neglected by other players. We are here to serve and meet this unmet need.” At YourStoryAfrica we believe in the potential of Mxit is to democratize communication and eradicate barriers between smart and feature phones. It is what countries like India and others in the emerging market need. Then there won’t be people left out from the immersive chat experience because they can’t afford smart phones – with Mxit installed, all phones become smart.
And by the looks of things, Mxit could rapidly surpass its Asian, North American and European counterparts due to the fact that it caters to this neglected market of huge feature phone user base. Mxit India will focus on promotional activities by going to all metro cities plus tier-2 and tier-3 cities.
Emerging market innovation
Mxit wasn’t just born in the mobile-first era, but by birth it was mobile-exclusive as well. This gives it an unfair advantage. It works on high-end phones and low-end phones. Unarguably, Mxit is the only mobile app that serves the bottom of the pyramid as well as the top of the pyramid. The only close ubiquitous service you can find across all phones is SMS. And SMS isn’t growing as it used to. The app is developed in emerging market, so it works on more than 8000 types of phones.
True, Mxit will have to face fierce competition from widely-popular Line, WhatsApp, Kakao Talk, WeChat, BBM, Hike, Viber, Tango and Facebook Messenger. Last year, Facebook announced that its phone app now has over 100 million users on feature phone. With Data-Light feature, Mxit has an edge as it consumes less data. That makes it cheaper than SMS but with rich user experience.
In fact, at the Mxit press conference, someone asked whether the company was scared of Facebook. The CEO of Mxit India tried to sound humble and answered: “We complement each other.” In fact, Facebook should be the one scared. Facebook went on record to say teens are leaving their network as aunts and uncles are cluttering their social space. And if you ask where the kids are going, certainly it is to other messaging apps. And Mxit is at the center of it once again.
Mxit Chat Cards
Cards are lightweight html 5 web apps, such as games, that can be sent, received and opened within conversations. The biggest web companies have realized early on that the future of the mobile web is served on a platter of cards. Twitter uses cards to serve content, Google uses cards. The only other messaging app that uses cards is the Canadian Kik. Other apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, and Line don’t have the feature. We believe Mxit’s Chat Cards are the killer features. Right now, you can use it to enhance chatting by supplementing it with gif cards, youtube cards and joke cards. But in the future, when Mxit opens the cards API for developers to deploy their card apps, it will be usher a new era of localized user experience for cool things on the platform.
Mxit enterprise level offers
At a consumer level, Mxit facilitates your communication needs on its chat platform. On the enterprise level, it has other products that helps NGOs and brands. Mxit Glue for instance, can be used by political parties to communicate with constituencies and measure impact. Mxit Glue is trying to change the way NGOs work in India by helping them visualize their unstructured data. It also helps NGOs measure impact by providing ways to track social performance and goal achievement.
Mxit Reach is a CRM like counseling platform, underlying social utility on Mxit. On the platform, 27 million counseling sessions have been conducted so far.
Mxit Launch, its publishing platform for creating pages on Mxit, will soon be available to public.
The potential Of messaging apps
Yes, mobile is eating the world. It is fascinating to watch the drastic growth of messaging apps. We see huge untapped potential for Mxit. Once they amass active user base, the possibilities are limitless. MCommerce is not just a big part of the future potential of messaging apps, it is already present. Here in our neighboring market, China, Xiaomi sold 10,000 phones on WeChat in 10 minutes. The other potential is for brands to use these messaging platforms to deliver anything on demand just like Uber delivers cars on demand to users. If Mxit incentivize users to invite their friends by offering a two-way reward to bring a network effect, grabbing marketing share in feature phone space is a cake walk.
Privacy isn’t dead yet
When most social networks like Facebook and Google+ try to kill privacy and abolish anonymity, a few like Twitter and Mxit are keeping it alive. On Mxit, you choose your user ID the way you choose your twitter handle. It gives you the freedom to be whoever you want to be. And beyond that , in case of serious issues like rape or maternal health, you can get counseling keeping your identity safe.
Do you regret not getting a fancy name on Twitter? Or worse still, has someone taken your name and never used it? Well, you’ve your chance now. Reserve your name on mxit.com/in and start using it.
YourStoryAfrica would like to quote Neil Armstrong here: “That’s one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.” Indeed, it’s just a beginning, a small step for Mxit to come to India but it’s a giant leap for the African tech ecosystem to go global. That is why we at YourStoryAfrica root for them.
Indian team coach Gary Kirsten was lifted by Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli after India’s win in the 2011 ICC World Cup Final. Similarly, CEO Rufus and Chairman Roger should do so when they conquer the fragmented feature phone space. We’ll keep a track of Mxit India and bring you more updates.