4 March 2014

Why WhatsApp is so Big in India

While much of India slept Thursday morning, one news of a big-time sale spread in minutes through the country, on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, long before the mainstream media picked it up. Facebook was buying WhatsApp for $16 billion in stock and cash, going up to a likely $19 billion with restricted stock options.

That's a company with just 55 employees. But it has 450 million active users (heading to a billion) resulting in a valuation of over $40 a user -- about the same level per user that Hotmail was acquired by Microsoft in 1997.

You might find the level of interest in India in this sale odd, given that no Indians are involved in key positions in either company. The answer lies in what unites the two services -- they're by far the top two drivers for mobile Internet adoption in India.

I first heard the news at 5 a.m. this morning, minutes after it broke, on a WhatsApp group I'm a member of. I switched to Twitter for confirmation, and then to Wikipedia, which of course already had details of the sale 10 minutes after it happened.
Facebook has close to 100 million active users in India, and nearly seven out of ten of them are mobile users. It's been a key driver of mobile internet access -- which accounts for 90 percent of the nearly 200 million internet users reported by the regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), late last year.
There are no India numbers for WhatsApp, but based on the number of smartphones in India and a rough sampling of usage, it's probably at nearly half the Facebook population. One liming factor is that it only works on smartphones, while Facebook cracked that barrier with its 'Facebook for Every Phone' app.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp has been the top driver for smartphone penetration in India. Together, the two add up to a potent army driving up connected smartphone usage in India.
The big appeal of this instant-messaging app that works across all smartphones was that it was nearly free - barring the low cost of a basic mobile data plan - unlike SMS text. WhatsApp did to SMS what Skype did to international phone calls.
WhatsApp now packs in more features, while remaining clean, fast, simple. It's the preferred way to share multimedia now -- pictures, audio and video. MMS -- a version of SMS once used for multimedia -- is dead.
Its most popular feature today is its handling of groups. That one thing takes it into the realm of social media. WhatsApp groups are the new social groups in India. I'm on 'only' four WhatsApp groups -- a family group, a group of parents of my daughter's classmates, school and college alumni groups -- apart from transient small groups created on the fly ("Friday Dinner Group"). The average schoolkid today -- many of whom are by choice not on Facebook -- belongs to at least a half-dozen WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is a clear leader in mobile messaging in India, as it is in Europe and Latin America, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pointed out in a recent investor call. A big reason for this success is the inflexible focus by the two founders of WhatsApp, very much like Google's focus, on speed and simplicity.
The company's product philosophy, scribbled on a cheap notepaper by its American co-founder Brian Acton and pinned on Ukrainian co-founder and CEO Jan Koum's desk, says it all: 'No Ads, No Games, No Gimmicks'. The two were colleagues at Yahoo.
India's many WhatsApp users are hoping that Facebook -- full of ads, games and gimmicks -- allows the instant messaging service to stay the way it is: Simple, clean and fast.

How to Use The Internet to Make Money

As long as you have the inclination, a little bit of expertise and some free time, you can earn some money on the Internet from the comfort of your own home. ET highlights some popular ways to make that quick extra buck:
Self publish books
If you love writing and want to get a book published, Amazon offers a free service called Kindle Direct Publishing. The service allows anyone to self publish books on the Kindle (electronic) bookstore and earn royalties from sales. There are two plans you can choose from — the 35% royalty works across any book sold in any country) while the 70% royalty plans works if you sell in a few select countries. Indian authors can choose to set prices specifically for the Indian bookstore and receive royalty payments in Indian currency as well.
Make & sell your apps
With so many smartphones and tablets, app development can be a very lucrative business. You can learn about developing apps online — there are various tutorials available for free. That's the easy part — the hard part is coming up with an idea that 'clicks'. Once you make an app, submit it to the respective app store, set a price and choose whether you want to earn from inapp advertising. Your earnings, after deducting the appropriate fees, will be paid monthly.
Sell your photos Online
Numerous stock websites like www.shutterstock. com, www.shutterpoint.com and www. istockphoto.com host photographs submitted by members. Depending on the site's policy, you can earn between a 15 to 85% royalty on each sale. The better the quality of photos and the larger your online portfolio, the more you will sell. Usually, each photograph you want to upload will have to be 'selected' by them first — and they usually have strict requirements of what can or cannot go on sale.
Sell old stuff online
An easy way to earn some money on the Internet is by selling old stuff that you have around the house. Websites like www.olx.in, www.quickr.com & http://craigslist.co.in provide a free classifieds platform. You need to create an account, enter the product details, location, the expected price along with some photographs — listing usually go live within a couple of hours. Interested buyers can directly contact you and finalise the sale.
Start an online shop
With some creativity, you can learn to make handicrafts or if you know a wholesale dealer, purchase unique things at low prices. Once you have some stock ready, you can set up an online shop to sell these goods on sites like www.ebay.in or www.indiebazaar.com.
Both sites have a simple signup process. After you get verified as a seller, they provide you with a step-by-step wizard to set your online store (how to add photos & details of items you want to sell).
Work online for money
The internet is full of bogus companies that promise to pay you for work but never will. For instance, all places that offer money to fill surveys or those that require payment up front are scammers. Two popular & reliable places to find work are www. odesk.com and www.elance.com.
Both have a similar system: set up a profile and take tests to prove your proficiency in certain areas. Once done, you'll be listed as a contractor/freelancer and people can hire you for an hourly rate. You can get paid more by working hard, getting better at what you do and getting good feedback (ratings) from your clients.
If you are fluent in any subject and have some tutoring experience, you can sign up on websites like www.2tion.net or www.tutorvista.com as an online tutor. The sites require you to create a tutor profile with details such as the subjects in which you are fluent, what classes/courses you want to teach, your experience level, preferred timings for tutions and the remuneration expected.
After verification, the site lists your profile on their portal where interested students can connect with you for tuitions. You can opt for virtual workspaces with built in teaching aids like live chat and collaborative whiteboards. Once you get better at tutoring, you can increase your monthly earnings by teaching multiple students simultaneously.
Earn from Advertising
A reliable way to earn money is from Google AdSense on your blog/website or ads on your YouTube channel. To get started, create a Google AdSense account at www. google.com/adsense. You can use the same account with your blog, website or YouTube channel. To maximise earnings from your blog or website, your objective needs to be to get the maximum number of visitors possible.
Write about what you know and what you're passionate about. On YouTube, make sure that your videos are original and interesting. Promote your channel to get more views. Apart from views, your objective should also be to get more people to like/favourite your video and to subscribe to your channel. The build up will be slow and Google only makes payments once your balance crosses $100, so don't get disheartened. Persistent efforts pay off in the long run.

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