We are all too familiar with chat applications.
In 2013, these chat apps exploded along with the rise of mobile: Japan’s LINE, China’s WeChat, Korea’s KakaoTalk, as well as existing players such as Whatsapp or Viber have been gaining millions of users throughout the year.
War among these apps for market share have long been discussed by tech media outlets around the world. For KakaoTalk, they have been doing very well in South Korea: the messaging app can be found on 93 percent of smartphones in the country. Recently, it has also surpassed 13 million users in Indonesia, officially making Indonesia the country with the largest number of KakaoTalk users outside of South Korea.
In total, KakaoTalk has 130 million users worldwide, impressive albeit far behind Japan’s chat app LINE which recently announced that they have over 300 million users.Users use KakaoTalk to chat and call their friends on KakaoTalk for free.
In addition to its excellent penetration in South Korea, revenues are also looking rosy for KakaoTalk, which expects to generate about $200 million in revenue from its application, including its localized games, and other content, up from $42 million last year.
Approximately 3 Million Malaysia KakaoTalk Users discovered Kakao primarily through word of mouth
What about Malaysia? Kakao Co-CEO Sirgoo Lee told Bloomberg that customization is key. How is the company penetrating the Islamic country with 30 million population?
Mellissa Lee, Senior Vice President of KakaoTalk Malaysia told Vulcan Post that they are currently working on an marketing campaign which is slated to be launched soon. KakaoTalk is partnering and working with most of the prominent local YouTubers in Malaysia such as JinnyboyTV, Joseph Germani and The Ming Thing to provide the latest updates from their channels.
So how many users are there on KakaoTalk Malaysia? Earlier in June 2013, Malaysian Wireless reported that there were more than 600,000 KakaoTalk users in the country with an average 50,000 new users daily. KakaoTalk Malaysia says that it targeting some 3 million users in Malaysia between Q1 and Q2 next year in 2014.
When we spoke to Mellissa, she told us that there are approximately 3 million users now in Malaysia, indicating that the actual growth in Malaysia is faster than it initially expected. These users mostly get to know KakaoTalk through word of mouth and the app store.
How does it compare with other chat apps especially LINE? Back in April, Jin-Woo Lee, general manager of the Global LINE Business Office revealed that they “already have a few million users registered in Malaysia”, and cited that the company does not disclose figures for markets with fewer than 10 million users.
KakaoTalk also released a huge wave of commercials back in June this year on the national television as well as other advertising mediums. This has helped KakaoTalk built up an initial critical mass of users for KakaoTalk to start engaging.
KakaoTalk Malaysia VP: Kakao is built for co-existence
With several other chat apps out there in the market, where it is common for users to have multiple chat apps on their smartphone, Vulcan Post asked Mellissa about her thoughts on the competitiveness of this industry. Mellissa shared that KakaoTalk is built for co-existence.
“As compared to other chatting applications, KakaoTalk is built for co-existence. We do not see ourselves as an independent business as we believe in working with our partners and building new values together. I see our role in the industry as a bridge for all businesses to generate more creative ideas of communication towards their target market. We’re looking to build a new symbiotic mobile ecosystem among our partners with a vision to achieve 1 million profit making partners globally in three years. We are not just about building our own brand, but we work together for the mutual success of us and the partners.” - Mellissa Lee
6 employees in KakaoTalk Malaysia now; looking to grow to at least ten by end of next year
Mellissa has been overseeing the Malaysia office for KakaoTalk, which primarily involves planning, localising and executing the marketing campaigns. How did she landed the executive role? Mellissa shared with Vulcan Post that she had her own company PerkPool before joining KakaoTalk.
“After PerkPool was acquired, I was looking for something different to try, and mobile is after all, the next frontier. I was previously a Management Consultant for about 2 years before joining ZALORA so I thought that you already had a steep learning curve with the different industries in consulting, but joining a company in its starting days, and then launching a new start-up from scratch was a whole new ball game,” Mellissa told Vulcan Post.
Mellissa was working on PerkPool, an employee benefits provider for small and medium enterprises in Malaysia, but it was later sold to another company. Prior to her own company PerkPool, Mellissa was also the Vice President at Zalora Malaysia, a fashion e commerce company.
“The beauty about being in a start-up is that you get to dabble in all aspects of the business, and after awhile, nothing fazes you anymore. You learn to anticipate everything and that multi-tasking is great, but it makes more sense to do one thing perfectly rather than ten things “normally”.
Mellissa is leading a team of six in the KakaoTalk Malaysia office now, and the number is expected to grow to at least ten by the end of 2014.
When asked what’s the best part about working at KakaoTalk Malaysia, Mellissa said that it’s the team that motivates her.
“Working with a very dynamic, young and fun team who all believe in the product and are working together for a common objective. Our team is small and hence very close-knit.”