This Line is Go­ing Up

Simeon Cho Gen­eral Man­ager, Line Busi­ness Of­fice

HWM (Singapore) - - Think - BY ALVIN SOON

Line was de­vel­oped in the af­ter­math of the To­hoku earth­quake in 2011, af­ter the Ja­panese com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem had been dam­aged. Line Cor­po­ra­tion says that the Line mes­sag­ing app has since reached 230 mil­lion users as of to­day, with 47 mil­lion com­ing from Ja­pan, 18 mil­lion from Thai­land, 17 mil­lion from Tai­wan, 15 mil­lion from Spain and 14 mil­lion from In­done­sia.

There have been over 7 bil­lion mes­sages and 1 bil­lion stick­ers sent, and the com­pany an­nounced a rev­enue of 12.8 bil­lion yen (ap­prox. US$132.3 mil­lion) in Q2 of this year, a 348.9% in­crease year on year. The com­pany also an­nounced that it is cur­rently mak­ing over US$10 mil­lion per month sell­ing stick­ers, and the fig­ure is ris­ing each month. This Line is go­ing up and up, and we met up with Simeon Cho, GM of Line Busi­ness Of­fice, to chat about this chat­ting ser­vice. How is Line dif­fer­ent from other mes­sag­ing ser­vices like What­sApp? If you think of Line as a mes­sag­ing ser­vice, then yes, we’re com­pet­ing with What­sApp. But in re­al­ity, we don’t think we’re com­pet­ing with What­sApp. What­sApp is a util­ity, just exchanging and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with texts.

But Line is dif­fer­ent. Even though Line was in­vented as a mo­bile mes­sen­ger, Line has evolved. At the be­gin­ning, Line was a mo­bile mes­sen­ger with unique stick­ers, but now Line is more like a plat­form. Un­der this plat­form, we re­leased var­i­ous Line apps and fea­tures, like Line Cam­era, Line Card and Line Tools. We also re­leased Line games, lever­ag­ing the Line so­cial graph. So that’s how we dif­fer­en­ti­ate Line from the other mes­sag­ing apps. How did Line come up with the idea to build a plat­form within a plat­form? At the be­gin­ning, we didn’t have any grand plans to evolve into a plat­form. We just cre­ated the Line mes­sen­ger in June 2011, be­cause of the big earth­quake in Ja­pan in March 2011. At the time, I heard that com­mu­ni­ca­tions had bro­ken down be­cause fam­ily and friends were all try­ing to con­tact each other from in­side and out­side of Ja­pan. We re­al­ized how im­por­tant fre­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween loved ones and fam­ily is, so that’s how we started with Line.

At the time, our main fo­cus was on how to make mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tion eas­ier and more fun, so we cre­ated stick­ers. Us­ing stick­ers, you can eas­ily com­mu­ni­cate with your friends and fam­ily. If you use What­sApp, you prob­a­bly have to tap the words out, but if you’re us­ing Line, just send­ing one sticker can bring across what you mean.

We re­al­ized that all the mo­bile trends were con­verg­ing onto plat­forms. Like Face­book, which is a plat­form which cre­ated its own eco-sys­tem, Line is try­ing to build a sim­i­lar eco-sys­tem on the mo­bile space. How has Line man­aged to achieve such tremen­dous growth? Ac­tu­ally, Line is not the first mover. Be­fore Line, there were other apps which ar­rived ear­lier. We needed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate Line from the oth­ers, so we cre­ated stick­ers. If you’re just look­ing at the fea­ture, maybe it’s just a big ver­sion of the emoti­con. But the big dif­fer­ence is that once you use it, you can feel that the sticker is more ex­pres­sive.

And be­cause we cre­ated this sticker fea­ture, we could cre­ate con­tent too. The sticker char­ac­ters, Moon, Brown, Cony, James, they’re not just stick­ers but char­ac­ters. Lever­ag­ing those char­ac­ters, we cre­ated Line an­i­ma­tions too. We also added var­i­ous fea­tures and apps on the Line plat­form, so we could dif­fer­en­ti­ate Line from the oth­ers. This is how we could achieve such rapid growth. Line has its three Cs: Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Con­tent and Com­merce. How did Line come up with that? Even though Line was started as a mo­bile mes­sen­ger, Line is try­ing to build an eco-sys­tem us­ing the Line so­cial graph. So us­ing the so­cial graph, we want to pro­vide not just com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but we want to pro­vide a more en­hanced mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence. One way is through con­tent; another is through e-com­merce. So that’s why we in­tro­duced both. In­tro­duc­ing con­tent and com­merce ser­vices into our plat­form fur­ther helps to dif­fer­en­ti­ate us from the other mes­sen­ger apps. Why go into mu­sic and e-com­merce with the launch of Line Mu­sic and Line Mall? Mu­sic can be one form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The shar­ing of mu­sic is one good way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing, that’s why we’re in­tro­duc­ing the mu­sic ser­vice on the Line plat­form. Even e-com­merce is one form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion too.

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