Instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp have fuelled a new form of group communication over mobile. Japanese instant messaging app LINE believes this could spur social networking among small communities. “Mark Zuckerberg wants to bring the whole world together. That includes strangers and many others. We have no intention of doing that. We would want to bring people who are already close, closer,” said Akira Morikawa, chief executive officer of LINE. The company is focused on personal communication to social groups, which it claims is what smartphone users look for. Morikawa tells stories of how the application, launched recently in India, has already become one such medium of friends and even family to stay in touch with. “Grandchild keeps in touch with the grandfather online. Keeping in touch with small groups is relevant to everyone's life,” he said. With specialised stickers, LINE hopes to give a richer experience than the apps that already exist and have garnered a large subscriber base. “We get compared with WhatsApp but we offer voice as well. We get compared to Viber as well but we have gone much beyond simple stickers and allow communication via video and voice,” said Morikawa. LINE also has a version that can be downloaded and used on the personal computer.
It also offers a platform for games and posts. One of its features includes adding a friend by shaking devices together. The Japanese app has already clocked in 10 million users in India three months before the official launch. It plans to double this number to 20 million by the end of the year. To aid rapid increase in users, the application has taken up extensive marketing and has even hired Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif as the brand ambassador. “We are going to take up marketing and promotion of the application to position it and enhance usage. We also plan to promote the application on television too, said Morikawa. It is also partnering with major Bollywood films which are yet to be released, like Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3, to provide exclusive content from these movies to its users. It has also tied up with Sony India, which plans to pre-instal the application on its handsets. LINE is banking on the rapid growth in the smartphone to help it grow in India, which has already overtaken its home country. “India has overtaken Japan to become the country with the third largest number of smartphones. It is only natural to anticipate further growth in the smartphone market in India and it will become a vital territory as LINE expands,” said Morikawa. The growth of high-speed data services like 3G and 4G also made the application maker confident of increase in its usage in India.