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South Africa’s Mxit takes on WhatsApp in India

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The South African messaging app Mxit is moving into the booming Indian market, with the hope of grabbing some share from WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.

WhatsApp is the most popular app in India with over 30 million users in that country alone. Mxit is much smaller, boasting 6.4 million users in its native South Africa and around a million elsewhere.

WeChat is probably a better point of comparison for Mxit than WhatsApp, however, as both Mxit and WeChat act as platforms for other apps (the same can arguably be said for Facebook(s fb) Messenger, currently number 2 in the Indian market, if you view it as an entry point to the wider Facebook). All effectively act as social networks, which — along with their effect on traditional SMS revenues — makes their development very interesting to watch.

Also interesting: again like WeChat, Mxit has its own virtual currency that can be used to purchase content. The mobile payments scene is far more active in emerging markets than elsewhere, largely because so many users lack bank accounts. Mxit lets users convert pre-paid airtime into “Moola” coins.

As with its rivals, Mxit offers a Java(s orcl) version that can be used on basic mobile devices, acting as a bridge of sorts between the feature phone and smartphone experience. This is crucial in emerging markets such as India, where many if not most people find 3G prohibitively expensive.

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