What Twitter’s ZipDial buy tells us about mobile in emerging markets

mobile africa

The chirpy blue bird has just acquired India’s ZipDial, which is a popular mobile marketing and analytics platform for emerging markets. TechCrunch estimates the deal to be worth somewhere in between the US$30-million and US$40-million mark.

The deal also marks Twitter’s foot in the door of India’s booming (though unique) mobile market with the establishment of its new engineering offices in Bangalore. It’s interesting witnessing the rising interest from major tech companies in high-growth markets such as India.

At the forefront of ZipDial’s mobile marketing technology lies its unique relationship with missed calls. ZipDial enables people to give brands and businesses missed calls, after which they’ll receive either a call or an SMS free of charge. This unique approach enables brands to engage with mobile audiences who don’t have smartphones.

Operating since 2011, ZipDial has also found a way of using prepaid recharging as its foundation for our couponing and gratification products. Twitter and ZipDial has collaborated on variety of campaigns, including the Indian elections, Bollywood film promotions and @MTVIndia’s #RockTheVote Dial the Hashtag campaign.

Read more: Mass mobile marketing campaigns: why basic tech works better

Of the 4.55 billion expected to use mobile phones in 2014, eMarketer suggests that about a fifth of those use smartphones. The rest, well, they come from high-growth markets such as India, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil and Indonesia look to their feature phones for internet access.

These trends are echoed in Twitter’s announcement of its buy:

Over the next several years, billions of people will come online for the first time in countries like Brazil, India and Indonesia. For many, their first online experience will be on a mobile device – but the cost of data may prevent them from experiencing the true power of the Internet. Twitter, in partnership with ZipDial, can make great content more accessible to everyone.

Playing catch-up with Facebook

ZipDial’s idea of using common feature phone behaviour isn’t entirely new. Yes, the Big Blue acted on this before the Big T.

Facebook last year in India introduced a missed call button with their mobile ads. People can click or tap the button on an ad that looks interesting, receive feedback from the brand without having to undergo data or airtime costs. The brand, on the other hand, can then monitor valuable user engagement. This is part of the social media company’s mission to adapt and expand to emerging markets.

Read more: Facebook is making ‘Facebook at Work’ for business

As noted by Forbes in an article last year, Facebook has massive interest in emerging markets.

Apart from the recent job post for heading its Johannesburg office Memeburn recently spotted, its interest is seen through investments such as WhatsApp — a company that is very happening with emerging markets. The instant messaging service boasts over half a billion users, a large bulk coming from South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia. Facebook has also shown interest through its Internet.org initiative, which allows data-free services (including Facebook) in Sub-Saharan Africa.



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