Viber to expand chat base with new features

Written by Anirban Ghoshal | Updated: Aug 18 2014, 15:33pm hrs
Popular instant messaging (IM) provider Viber is trying to re-invent itself in the highly competitive free call and chat space, with a view to attract new users in its digital empire. The call and messaging app firm, which has over 370 million users globally and more than 20 million users in India, recently launched a new featureViber Outfor personal computers that allows users to make outgoing mobile calls to other Viber users and non-registered mobiles, making it a rival to Skype.

Viber has made its interface simple and light too, so that it is easy for the user to catch on, and with no heavy battery usage.

It is also seeking to capitalise on the appeal of its free services, especially in emerging markets such as India, with unique features like the Doodle, which gives a more personal touch to your IM conversations.

Earlier this year, Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten had acquired Viber for $900 million. Bullish on India, Anubhav Nayyar, country head, Viber India, said, India is one of our primary markets due to the growth surge of smartphones in the country and also because it is one of the fastest emerging markets in the world. We have decided to piggyback the smartphone growth and push Viber.

When asked how was the strategy working in India, Nayyar revealed that the app has seen a rise in consumer base since the last nine months and it intends to match rival consumer bases riding the success wave. In India, it competes with instant messaging apps such as WeChat, Hike, WhatsApp and Line, among others. We dont want to hassle the consumer, hence, we have banned in-app advertising and that has been our strategy since we launched, he said.

While popular messaging app WhatsApp enjoys a consumer base of 40 million in India, Viber has been slowly catching up fast with already 20 million users here. When asked about the competition, Nayyar said, It is no secret that there is a lot of competition in the IM app sector as it is continuously evolving. Everybody wants to do something new. Elaborating further, he wanted more and more people to try the app so that the consumer can understand differentiated consumer benefits' offered by Viber in comparison to the other apps.

Earlier this month, Viber made its most popular stickers available for free download in August to let people celebrate friendship this season. Stickers are a fun way to spice up the conversation and are the best way to express your emotions. Viber has more than 3,500 stickers in its sticker store and out of 97 sticker pack, 80 of them will be available for free.

Nayyar said, Conversations are changing, its all about richer conversations and todays generation wants to express themselves more vibrantly. We have seen that people in India love our stickers and use them in almost every messaging conversation that they have. On his efforts to net new users, he said, The app is light too so the user has relief from battery usage issues.

Viber offers features that two to three apps offer individually and most of it free of charge. For instance, a user can transfer his chats, shared data to his laptop as the app has an auto-sync system which might come in handy for the corporate users and aid users who are comfortable with keyboards. The user can choose to install the app in the Windows platform and all his data related to his account simply syncs in.

We have developed the app keeping in mind the utility of users across the board, Nayyar said. And the auto-sync was setup after several users complained that the app was just accessible on their mobile operating system. The surge in entry level smartphones have given Viber a lot of advantage and also given the user lots of opportunities to explore and experiment, he summarised.