• Consumer Research

Unravelling the Indian Messaging Apps Usage Behaviour

Shamala DN
5 min read
Posted on August 20, 2014

A few years back, there was a race to join social networking sites from Orkut to Facebook and Twitter. This was all about building a network of friends, creating personal profiles, and sharing photos, videos, music and status updates. Today, people ask whether you are on WhatsApp, WeChat, Kik etc., and even now all of this is about networking and sharing. Times are changing with tech-savvy young people turning to a wave of smartphone-based messaging apps which are now sweeping across the world. All of these are predominantly driven by mobile. Mobile messaging apps, or social messaging apps as they are called, are the biggest threat to the existing social networks. The apps provide a quick and easy way for smartphone users to combine elements of text and social networking and bypassing both the SMS plans offered by telecom carriers and also the established social networking websites. This growing trend of messaging apps are not only replacing traditional SMS and voice calling, but they continue to grow and may even replace social networking sites as well.

What started off as a habit of SMS messaging on a mobile phone has evolved into an engaging conversation using instant messaging initially on PCs and then on smartphones. A rapid growth of mobile data subscriptions and the proliferation of reasonably priced smartphones have been the major contributing factors for this growth. The other reason is quick response time and the ability to have longer conversations virtually with anyone in the world without any extra cost.

Mobile Messaging Landscape in India

Mobile messaging apps have triggered a revolution globally, and India, being one of the fastest growing countries in terms of smartphone adoption, has also caught up in this messaging revolution with the launch of many mobile messaging applications. The mobile market in the country is beginning to open up both in terms of devices and related technologies. This user shift in India towards higher screen size products is amplified by declining prices and the availability of feature rich localized product offerings. The cost effective nature of these social messaging apps has accelerated the adoption of these services amongst Indian consumers

Messaging apps are going all out to attract users in India as this is one of the largest markets. The widespread popularity of these apps has triggered a battle to gain market share. Many of them have been actively marketing on television and have roped in celebrities for their campaigns. The messaging market is getting extremely crowded and each player is trying to differentiate themselves.

To better understand the growing popularity of mobile apps—and help all players in the mobile ecosystem figure out how to profit from their growth—we at InMobi conducted a research project to understand the consumer behavior.

InMobi conducted this study to uncover trends and provide an improved understanding of consumer behavioral insights in context of mobile messaging apps to craft meaningful user acquisition and monetization strategies for app developers.

The key research findings are summarized as below:

App Usage

  • Messaging is very big among Indian users. It’s engrained in their habits ever since the inception of SMS. Research shows that of all forms of communication channels available on mobile device, 44% of Indian mobile users prefer messaging apps as the most preferred way to communicate, bypassing even social networks (19%).
  • 95% of mobile users in India access messaging apps multiple times per day.
  • Younger mobile users under aged 35 are leading the charge toward chat apps. They are drawn to chat apps because of the cost-savings benefits they offer (vs. SMS/MMS) and for the immediate, private and fun nature of the messaging environment.

App Discovery

  • Browsing the app store, recommendations from friends and family, and mobile websites are the top three ways users discover apps. Mobile advertising has also emerged as an important discovery channel, with 14 percent of respondents reporting they discover new apps via mobile ads

App Preference

The fragmentation of social media is very much driven by the diverse needs of consumers. Our research shows that not all apps have the same appeal. By talking to different consumers and engaging people in a co-creation process, marketers can help drive innovation and uncover opportunities where their brand can meaningfully add value.

Propensity to Download:

56% of mobile users in India are more likely to download the messenger/chat app in the next 30 days.

The top 3 factors that influence Indian users to download these apps are:

  • Ability to communicate with friends - 44%
  • Ability to share photos & videos – 39%
  • Ability to communicate with family – 30%

What is interesting to note is that attributes such as the ability to play games and availability of emoticons are seen as much less important. Users value the functionality and reliability of such apps, rather than the add-on fancy features.

In-App Purchases

  • Research found that a fair share of mobile users do shell out for in-app purchases in a messaging apps—21% of respondents said they’d made an in-app purchase in a mobile messaging apps, and 18% of users have never made an in-app purchase but would consider making.
  • The optimal price point for in-app purchases in messaging apps for Indian users is between INR 71 and INR 129
  • Digital goods purchases (38%); Upgrading apps with additional features (35%)are the most popular types of in-app purchases done by Indian mobile messaging app users

What it takes to Win the Chat Race

Here are a few tips for marketers and publishers as an outcome of the survey.

Leverage mobile: Leverage all the available features in mobile devices like camera, location detection, sensors, which were not possible in Web to create new business opportunities. Make sure your app leverages all these features to ensure a richer user experience!

Leverage mobile messaging - 78% of respondents send or receive multiple mobile messages per day. Leverage the mobile messaging/ chat app opportunity to fill this need to communicate with consumers via mobile messages.

Focus on the right audience - 95% of respondents already use mobile messaging/ chat apps, and nearly two-thirds of them are planning to download a messaging/ chat app in the next 30 days. Understand who your target consumers are and what factors consumers find most important to messaging/ chat applications.

Design dynamic and engaging mobile experience - Mobile consumers discover messaging/ chat apps through multiple channels. Design dynamic and engaging mobile experiences that introduce consumers to messaging/ chat applications, showcase app features, and enable them to seamlessly download the app.

Generate brand awareness - Indian mobile consumer’s most frequent social networking and messaging and news/ weather mobile sites or applications. Generate brand awareness by targeting ads to these mobile properties and other sites they frequent.

Monetize - Once your app has reached the critical mass of users, focus your effort towards monetizing the app. Earn additional revenue by hosting ads in your app. Consider utilizing native ads that seamlessly blend into your app content. Understand what types of in-app purchases users are making and offer those that make the most sense for your app.


Time spent on messaging apps is exploding in markets, and many of the populous countries in the world have fallen prey for them. It is important for marketers and publishers involved in mobile media to understand that messaging is the audience platform of the future.

To learn more about the above study, download the India Mobile Messaging Apps Research Report and Infographics

Interested in understanding more about this research? Reach out to our insights team at insights@inmobi.com

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