Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
Tencent has sharpened its focus on Southeast Asia’s mobile messaging space after it opened a joint-venture in Indonesia, the region’s largest country. The move is aimed at increasing the presence of its WeChat service among the country’s 249 million population, according to Daily Social.
The Chinese Internet giant has linked hands with local company MNC Media to create ‘MNC Tencent’ with the express intention of taking the WeChat app — which recently passed 300 million downloads — to the next level, and establishing a pathway to promote other services.
While it is yet to break out download numbers across specific markets, Tencent previously identified Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as markets were it is seeing promising traction and has the potential for further growth.
Tencent has been busy promoting WeChat in Indonesia through a campaign that has combined local meet-ups with celebrities, visible marketing campaigns and — as of last week — a broadcast TV ad campaign. Daily Social says that these efforts have seen its daily sign-up rate for WeChat hit an impressive 90,000 in the country.
But Tencent is far from being alone in targeting Indonesia. BlackBerry enjoys a visible presence and this week began a pilot in the country to allow money transfers via its BBM service, while fellow cross-platform services Kakao Talk — which Tencent has invested in — and Japanese rival Line also enjoy a strong presence. A number of Kakao Talk’s staff are based out of Jakarta, while Line itself has also undertaken a marketing campaign that involves advertising and TV spots.
Tencent has WeChat staff in Singapore and Malaysia, and in Thailand it is working closely with Sanook, the Web content firm it bought a 49 percent stake in for $10.5 million in 2010. This is the first joint venture that the company has embarked on, as President Martin Lau told Daily Social: “Usually we either deploy our company in to the market, but sometime we also do investment in a local company.
The focus isn’t just on Asia though. Tencent is preparing to launch an office in the US to raise the visibility of WeChat in the country; Line has already begun addressing that market after expanding into North America earlier this year.
We included WeChat among our pick of of Asian services that have the best chance of cracking America, but a number of roadblocks have since emerged. Issues with censoring Chinese users, and a spate of recent hacking and interference that were allegedly performed by Chinese authorities, have clouded the app’s potential and muddied Chinese tech firms’ international reputation somewhat.
Those issues are less prevalent in Southeast Asia, which maintains close links to China — in terms of language, culture and ancestry — and fellow Chinese tech firm Baidu is also tapping into the region as it assesses its international growth potential.
Related: China’s Tencent focuses on mobile, ecommerce and overseas growth with restructuring
Headline image via bryanlyt.com, other image via Daily Social
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