Vodafone India has partnered with WhatsApp to promote the use of the app in local Indian languages and to educate users about how to do so. WhatsApp, which is available in more than 50 languages worldwide, now has over 200 million active users per month in India, in 10 Indian languages. To increase the uptake of the newly introduced local language feature on WhatsApp, Vodafone has built customized pages in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil and several other Indian languages.
The interface for the app features an animated step-by-step approach that displays options for changing to different Indian languages while chatting. Updating status, chatting or even sharing messages in the language of the customer’s choice is possible.
MNOs have long since made their peace with WhatsApp and several other globally popular OTT messaging applications, taking a “join them” approach after the “beat them” strategy was rendered hopeless by these free, easy-to-use services. Vodafone India’s latest move, however, takes the relationship between the MNOs and their erstwhile rivals to a new level.
The operator is actively promoting the use of WhatsApp by leveraging the linguistic diversity of India. Partnering directly with the U.S.-based company, Vodafone is working to encourage its subscribers (and potential new subscribers) to access WhatsApp in their own languages, for greater comfort and ease of contacting friends, family and associates.
While it is, of course, true that promoting WhatsApp cannibalizes SMS and MMS usage, Vodafone’s strategy can have several countervailing benefits: It can increase consumer confidence and brand loyalty. It can generate some revenue through data use. And perhaps most important, in a country such as India where device use and data use still have a lot of room for growth, any way of making mobile communication easier and more pleasant for users is a good idea.