Business / Industry Sectors
India is an important market for Viber
Mr. Talmon Marco, CEO and founder of Viber recently expressed his plans to expand in the Indian market. With over 25 million users in India alone, the country has huge potential for instant messaging and calling apps.

Israeli-American entrepreneur Mr. Talmon Marco is the CEO and co-founder of the instant messaging, and voice and video call app Viber. Founded in 2010, Viber was bought for $900 million in February this year by Japanese Internet giant Rakuten. Today Viber has over 370 million users worldwide, with over 25 million in India. Mr. Marco spoke about Viber’s Indian operations.


Your India office has been active for close to seven months now. What have been the key results?


We have accelerated our growth in India both in terms of users and activity. So the numbers of messages that users send every day has outgrown the overall global growth. The Indian market is among the top ten.


How do you monetize in India?


We monetize less in India, it's because almost all of our stickers (elaborate picture-emoticons within the chat app) here are free, so that's one source of revenue that at least at the moment is off the table. But ignoring that, we monetize in India how we monetize everywhere else, which is stickers and Viber Out, using which you can call any number outside Viber. Moving forward, we are going to add games, later this year. In the future we'll start to do things, which are more related to Rakuten's business, like ecommerce, travel, and finance. I don't know if we will be bringing these services to India, and if so, when. If you look at it, as a trend where we want to be, then expect to start seeing such services integrated and offered in different markets either via partnerships or via acquisitions.


There is serious talk in India about telecom companies charging over the top apps like Viber. Thoughts?


We haven't seen anything concrete other than chatter. We believe in net neutrality. I think that the mere suggestion of charging an app like Viber or WhatsApp is ridiculous. Carriers are being paid for their networks (by users). What is being discussed here is that one use of the data network might be competitive with one of the services that the carriers offer, and therefore they should charge for it. What if the carrier tomorrow decides to offer another business?


How have things changed after the Rakuten buyout?


They haven't changed much, really. We're still running Viber as an independent company within Rakuten. We have a really big daddy but at the same time Rakuten lets us continue to run Viber as a fast, nimble startup.


The Rakuten deal happened very close to the $19 billion Whatsapp-Facebook one. Did you ever feel they stole your thunder?


I'm not going to deny that. It was a fascinating week. We got acquired and then WhatsApp got acquired. I got asked many times if I had any remorse about selling too early or for too little. Did we clear the table of every dollar that was available? Maybe not. Does it matter? No. Maybe we could have sold for another billion dollars, would that have changed anything? I'd still be right here, talking to you and wearing the same clothes, having the same conversation with a few more Shekels in the bank.



You served in the Israeli army. How did that experience help in building Viber?


I was a young soldier doing my mandatory service. I learnt a lot about security and privacy. Viber is more secure, private and encrypted because we learnt a thing or two about the importance of keeping communications private.


Source: Times of India


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