The Facebook of emerging markets? China-backed migme targets India armed with lessons learned in the Middle Kingdom

As social media explodes in developing markets like India, Indonesia and Africa, global digital media company sets itself a lofty goal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 5:25pm

Backed by Hong Kong-listed FIH Mobile and Chinese imaging apps specialist Meitu, social entertainment apps provider migme plans to expand its operations this year in India, the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market.

“[After China] the next explosion of social media is in emerging markets” said Steven Goh, the founder and chief executive of Singapore-based migme.

Goh said migme, previously known as mig33, has the ambitious goal of becoming the Facebook of these emerging markets.

“There are just so much more people out there,” said Goh, referring to India as well as Indonesia and countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Facebook said earlier this month that it had more than 100 million monthly active users in India on Facebook Lite, a lighter version of its main smartphone app. In comparison, migme has a long way to go to get close to that number.

Goh pointed out that migme has around 32 million active monthly users, a third of which come from India. Indonesia accounts for the bulk of the remainder.

To drive migme’s expansion across India, the company partnered with domestic online payment and e-commerce platform Paytm in December to facilitate the purchase of its services in the country.

A deal was signed with Los Angeles-based entertainment and sports firm Creative Artists Agency earlier this month and another with Sony Music India last July to bolster the number of featured Indian performing artists on migme’s site.

Migme now on Google Play

The big push into emerging markets by migme is based on the opportunities presented by the rising broadband internet and smartphone penetration rates in countries like India.

According to Counterpoint Research, Indian smartphone shipments crossed the 100-million mark last year, up 23 per cent from 2014.

India has also surpassed the United States as the second-largest smartphone market after mainland China last year.

Smartphone users in India reached 220 million last year, which still left the majority of the country’s 1.3 billion population in the market for these handsets.

Goh said migme will more than triple the number of its employees in India, from 14 at present to nearly 50 in the next two months.

To tap into emerging markets, migme has emulated some of the biggest internet companies from China.

Its flagship product, social media site, features a system of paid online interactions, allowing users to obtain emojis and certain virtual merchandise.

Goh said these paid functions were inspired by various mainland services, including Tencent Holdings’ QQ, an online messaging app in which users pay to dress up their avatars, and YY, a video-streaming service that allows viewers to send virtual rewards to popular programmes posted on the site.

“We are a mix of their features, with our own creativity added,” Goh said.

He said part of migme’s corporate functions will be moved to Hong Kong, where he will also be based from the third quarter of this year.

“Hong Kong is a jumping point to China,” Goh said.

That move is expected to help migme develop partnerships with mainland Chinese game developers so it can bring their products to international markets.