Sis­tema Shyam Plans a Desi What­sApp

MBuddy to al­low CDMA users to do un­lim­ited mes­sag­ing for just .` 15/month

The Economic Times - - Companies - KALYAN PARBAT

Jan Koum’s dream of hook­ing ev­ery In­dian smart­phone user to What­sApp, a pop­u­lar in­stant mes­sag­ing app that he co-founded, may still be some time away. But a desi vari­ant, cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped, could repli­cate the in­stant mes­sag­ing and photo-shar­ing thrills on sub-.`1,000 hand­sets and go a long way in get­ting the lower rungs of so­ci­ety greater ac­cess to so­cial me­dia. Chris­tened MBuddy, the What­sApp vari­ant from CDMA-tech­nol­ogy-based tele­com op­er­a­tor Sis­tema Shyam Te­le­ser­vices (SSTL), will ini­tially al­low folks who can­not af­ford An­droid de­vices to do un­lim­ited mes­sag­ing on their plain vanilla CDMA hand­sets at .` 15 a month. Sis­tema Shyam is the In­dian arm of Rus­sian con­glom­er­ate Sis­tema. Its chief mar­ket­ing and sales of­fi­cer Leonid Musatov told ET that in a few months, the app will be scaled up for photo and au­dio file-shar­ing, and will also run on 4G de­vices sub­se­quently. “In­di­ans are among the heav­i­est users of SMS and we re­alised not ev­ery­one can af­ford an An­droid de­vice that sup­ports What­sApp. That in­duced us to de­velop MBuddy, which would ini­tially al­low people at the bot­tom of the pyramid to savour un­lim­ited in­stant mes­sag­ing on ba­sic fea­ture phones and even­tu­ally share pic­tures and au­dio files, too,” Musatov said. In In­dia, fea­ture phones still dom­i­nate the hand­set mar­ket, though sales of smart­phones are ris­ing swiftly as man­u­fac­tur­ers lower prices. SSTL has part­nered with Sin­ga­pore-based Vo­ca­ble to de­velop MBuddy. And it sees the home­grown app evolv­ing into a pow­er­ful mar­ket ex­pan­sion en­gine as it will be po­si­tioned as an af­ford­able in­stant mes­sag­ing and photo-shar­ing plat­form for low­cost CDMA phones, non-An­droid dual-SIM hand­sets and 4G de­vices as well. Ac­cord­ing to Musatov, the ad­vent of smart­phones and over­the-top (OTT) ser­vices had taken mo­bile phone us­age to new lev­els, re­flected in the con­stant evo­lu­tion of mes­sag­ing apps for smart de­vices, but “en­try-level cus­tomers had got to­tally left out from the phe­nom­e­non”. SSTL is among the few tel­cos of­fer­ing pure-play CDMA ser­vices un­der the MTS brand. While there are no im­me­di­ate plans to make the app GSM-com­pat­i­ble, an­other com­pany ex­ec­u­tive said that “MBuddy would soon be scal­able to run on 4G LTE net­works”.

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