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Home / Tech / Snapchat on why it finally shifted its attention to India in 2019

Snapchat on why it finally shifted its attention to India in 2019

Snapchat finally decided to expand its presence in India after years of existing in the social networking space.

tech Updated: Jan 02, 2020 12:39 IST
Marcia Sekhose
Marcia Sekhose
Hindustan Times
Snapchat’s India bet appears to have begun paying off as its daily active user base in the country grew 80% from November 2018 to November 2019.
Snapchat’s India bet appears to have begun paying off as its daily active user base in the country grew 80% from November 2018 to November 2019.(REUTERS)

Back in 2017, Snapchat found itself at the center of a controversy after its CEO Evan Spiegel reportedly said the company didn’t want to expand into “poor countries” like India. Fast forward to 2019, Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc is now betting big on India as it opened its first office in the country and is building a local team.

The company is trying to woo Indians with more vernacular language support, customizing the app, and more importantly working with the local players including smartphone companies and telecom operators.

In April, Snapchat rolled out support for four new Indian languages including Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi. The company plans to introduce five more regional languages on the platform - Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu.

Snapchat said its daily active user base in India has grown 80% from November 2018 to November 2019. The company did not share India’s specific numbers. Globally, Snapchat has 210 million daily active users.

Local strategy

“The strategy for India has been to invest in building a local business and what we mean by that is we want to make sure that we are locally and culturally relevant when it comes to our product experience so we’re very focused on that, Nana Murugesan, Managing Director, International Markets at Snap Inc. told Hindustan Times.

“We’re also establishing local partnerships across a wide range of areas from device manufacturers, telcos, content creators and also educational establishments. The local strategy has been working for us as we’ve experienced very strong growth in 2019.”

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Local partners

The company has partnered with telcos and device manufacturers in India. It started off with Samsung Galaxy A and M series phones this year which come with Snapchat app pre-installed.

“We’re also very focused on amplifying cultural moments. We’ve celebrated Diwali, Independence Day, Rakshabandhan, Janmasthami, Gurunanak Jayanti. The way we do it is with custom stickers, content and creative tools. So what we’re really doing is empower our users creatively so that they can express visually,” he added.

A rebuilt Android app

Android is the most popular mobile platform in India, driven by entry-level and budget smartphones. This has prompted the social networking companies and several internet-based service providers to find a workaround where their product is compatible with low-end phones and erratic internet speeds. For instance, Google offers “Go” versions of its key apps while Facebook has “Facebook Lite.” Even PUBG Mobile has a “Lite” version. Snapchat is finally catching up with the trend.

“We relaunched a rebuilt Android experience just in April this year. It’s product first and it’s very important before we go into a market before we start investing in a market that we have the product experience right so that’s we did. If you look at our Android app it’s 25% smaller, it opens 20% faster on lower performing devices. We’re sort of more performant on a wider variety of devices mainly those android devices. So that’s really the main reason why now,” Nana said.

On the company’s plans for 2020, Nana said, “We are hoping to continue on our strategy because we feel it’s working, investing in a very local strategy. We hope to continue and strengthen our growth projection in India given that we have a strategy that is in place and it is working out pretty well for us.”