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BBM engages users more, says BlackBerry MD

BlackBerry India managing director Sunil Lalvani says its chat app engages users in a better way

Katya B Naidu  |  Mumbai 

BlackBerry's India managing director is not unduly worried about competition from instant messenger WhatsApp. Sunil Lalvani said the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) engaged its users more than the app, despite having fewer users. In a study conducted by BlackBerry a month ago, it was found BBM and WhatsApp users exchanged 10 billion messages a day on each platform. The catch, however, is in that BBM has a fifth of the users of WhatsApp at 85 million, including those who use it on Android and Apple's iOS platforms. WhatsApp, recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion, has 450 million users. "The level of engagement of users with BBM is more. It also shows that BBM users are high-data consuming customers who communicate more," Lalvani told Business Standard. BBM opened its platform to users of other platforms like Android and iOS six months ago, when it had 60 million users. Ever since, it quickly added 25 million users. Lalvani said BBM is preferred over other chap apps as they are more private and personal. "We do not publish details like 'last seen at' and others. Also, one cannot pull out saved contacts of a mobile handset and add it to the chat. One has to exchange a PIN number in order to be added into the group," he said. BBM is a 'closed' chat application, while other popular instant messengers are open, the Canada-based company claims. "BBM can co-exist with other messengers.

But, BBM is used for secure and personal conversations with friends and family. Other instant messengers are where users are more vocal in nature with group chats exchanging jokes and others,” Lalvani said. BBM also has a unique feature which tells the user that a message sent has been read by the intended person. The other chat apps indicate the time spent on the application and not necessarily if the recipient has read the message intended.

The added feature of security to conversations over BBM makes it another official communication tool, as both BlackBerry devices and services are popular with enterprise users. "Our enterprise users know it is secure to chat on BBM. The chat cannot be copied and sent like in others. Added to that, the log of a conversation can be audited and retrieved on the enterprise version of BBM, which cannot be done on any other platform," said Lalvani.

BlackBerry also has options of video group chat and voice calls in its messaging app. The video chat allows users to temporarily share the screen of the user, thereby reducing the need to e-mail or upload heavy files. It also launched BBM channels where either an individual or a corporate can create a channel with dedicated followers. As many as 250,000 business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer BBM channels are live now including Indian brands such as Airtel and Cafe Coffee Day. If a user chooses to get updates from the channel, offers and other information are messaged by the company.

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First Published: Fri, March 07 2014. 00:30 IST
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