SA mobile app grows across Africa
VALUE ADDED SERVICES| Sept. 20, 2012, 8:06 a.m.
One of South Africa’s quietest tech success stories is a seven-person business that’s gone from startup to profitability in just four years – without ever marketing itself or taking a cent of outside financing. In the process, mobile social network 2go has come to dominate the Nigerian market, where it has over nine million active users – several million more than Facebook.
The secret, says director Peter Lockhart, has been balancing a tight focus on what 2go’s users really want – a cheap, easy way to chat and socialise using their mobile phones – with the deep technical expertise needed to deliver that experience across thousands of different devices.
“Building mobile technology for an African market is tough,” says Lockhart. “Data and SMS are expensive, and our users are price sensitive and savvy. That means we have to deliver an application that uses the absolute minimum of system resources and bandwidth. Our response has been to develop proprietary communications protocols and compression algorithms that minimise the app’s data usage.”
The 2go team has also cracked the technical challenge of producing an app that works equally well on all of the myriad feature phones that still dominate the African market. “It’s much, much harder to develop for feature phones than for smartphones,” says Lockhart, “partly because there is such a variety of platforms and operating systems. You need deep technical knowledge. This technical knowledge also extends to our ability to scale the back-end in a very resource efficient manner.”
The fact that 2go works well on many handsets has been critical to the viral spread of the app, says Lockhart, adding “feature phones aren’t going away any time soon. Projections from Informa indicate that non-smart phones will still comprise 85% of the African handset market in 2015.”
2go has resisted the temptation to bloat its app with added features, adds Lockhart. “Our users log in and out quickly, several times a day – they want things to be quick and simple,” he says. “We’ve thought through every menu item; every pixel is there because it serves a purpose.”
Alongside this technical focus, 2go has also remained extremely alert and sensitive to the needs of its users. “Our target market is not some kind of generic ‘Africa’,” says Lockhart. “We ask what country are they in, what region, what city? 2go really took off in Nigeria when we noticed that our users wanted to be able to chat within their university communities. So we did the research and created a chat room for each university in the country.”
2go also actively solicits and follows up on suggestions from its users, adds Lockhart. “People want to be asked for their opinion. Many of our users are starved for entertainment and engagement. 31% of our Nigerian users tell us they don’t watch television, but 66% of them spend two or more hours on their phones each day. It’s a very sociable society, and 2go supports that sociability.”
The insights gained in Nigeria have fed back into the South African market, where 2go has 1,5m active users and counting. The app also provides gateways to other popular social networks such as GTalk, MXIT and Facebook. “I use 2go to chat with friends on Facebook and they have no idea,” says Lockhart. “Our whole mission is to make chat easy, cheap and painless, no matter what device you’re using.”
2go is a mobile social network targeting users in emerging markets, particularly in Africa. The company has over 21 million registered users with more than 10 million active users in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. User adoption is growing rapidly at approximately 50,000 new registrations a day.
2go users message each other for free, meet new people and share updates and photos with friends and family. 2go’s mobile currency, GoCredits, enables users to buy content, play games and message each other in in chat rooms.
2go’s success lies in its simple elegant user interface, nimble and highly scalable platform, and its support for Blackberry (with BIS integration) and over 800 feature phones (which still dominate handset penetration in Africa).
The company recently launched the 2go Ad Platform and 2go Market Research. The 2go Ad Platform enables brands and advertising agencies to target and engage with 2go’s growing base of young savvy users. 2go Market Research leverages the power of the 2go community to conduct real-time surveys and polls that deliver actionable insights with immediate value to clients.
MORE VALUE ADDED SERVICES NEWS
Tigo Tanzania announces free WhatsAppTigo Tanzania has announced free WhatsApp services for its 10 million users. Read More
Lock screen content delivery platform launched in NigeriaSliide Airtime today announced Nigeria as the launch market for its Sliide Airtime service which provides users with a new and innovative way to access content from their mobiles and simultaneously earn free airtime. Read More
Glo collaborates with 15 banks to launch new recharge codeGlobacom has partnered with fifteen leading banks to launch a unified short code for customers to purchase Glo airtime at any time from banks in the partnership. Read More
Airtel Ghana launches ‘love month’ promoAirtel Ghana has announced plans to celebrate and reward its cherished customers in February, the ‘love month’, through a Valentine Day promotion dubbed “In The Name of Love”. Read More
Safaricom launches M-PESA statements serviceSafaricom has announced a new service that allow M-PESA customers to access monthly statements free of charge via email. Read More
Ghanaian market catches up with mobile financial servicesThe usage of mobile financial services in Ghana is increasing rapidly, according to a survey conducted by CGAP. Read More
Viber Spreads Good Vibes in Africa with the introduction of public chatsViber, one of the leading messaging and calling apps with more than 664 million unique users worldwide, has opened its latest social channel ‘Public Chats’ to partners in Africa and the Middle East. Read More
Bank starts year with new mobi appBancABC says their newly launched product, BancABCMobi, will allow more customers to use mobile banking solutions in this coming year and many more to come. Read More
Viber launches public chats in AfricaViber, a leading messaging and calling app with more than 664 million unique users worldwide, announced today that it has opened its latest social channel ‘Public Chats’ to partners in Africa and the Middle East. Read More
Low interest asset financing platform officially launched in NigeriaA new online platform launched this week allows employees in Nigeria to obtain voucher loans to pay for a range of goods and services. Read More
FEATURED STORYViber Spreads Good Vibes in Africa with the introduction of public chats
Viber, one of the leading messaging and calling apps with more than 664 million unique users worldwide, has opened its latest social channel ‘Public Chats’ to partners in Africa and the Middle East.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHPoised for greater heights – Roshi Motman, AfricaCom CEO of the Year Winner
Roshi Motman is not your average CEO. Since taking up the reins as the first female CEO of Tigo Ghana in 2014, she has led the Tigo brand through a remarkable transformation.