Nepali Times: What makes Viber so popular in Nepal?
Anubhav Nayyar: If you look at all players, product wise, we are very similar. We have tried to cater our product and services to the emerging markets like Nepal where there are certain challenges … countries just a little behind the curve, where internet infrastructure is not that great. It is important to have hygiene services that are really good.
I am very proud to say Viber has not had any downtime throughout the last couple of years unlike every other competitor. The biggest differentiator is the fact that we choose to focus on Nepal. That is what sets us apart. I have not seen many localised initiatives from other players. It is an important market for us, we have a high usage over here. We are the only app which is truly localised from a global perspective. We are evaluating localised UI (user interface) itself because there are a lot of people who would not be English-literate so then can we offer a service that is completely translatable. I do not mean a Google translate that is very literal, but actually translated in a way that people can understand.
Read also: Nepal is becoming a nation of net addicts, Sabina Devkota
What has the growth been like in 2019?
It has been a very good year. In 2019 we grew in excess of 20% of our base and it is a big base here. What is very encouraging is that our growth is through communication and group communication. We have a couple of media partnerships such as with Online Khabar that have been doing really well. We have also decided to partner with HamroPatro to provide a horoscope to every Viber user who chooses to subscribe to this service. We have also partnered with Nepal Mediciti Hospital so users can request for an ambulance or any assistance through Viber. We take that as a responsibility. In the beginning of this year we hit a billion users across the world – a big landmark and a proud moment for all of us. We should be breaking even, a big landmark for a messaging communication platform that is completely free.
How do you ensure user data protection?
We are very passionate about user privacy. What sets us apart from our competition over here is that we are end-to-end encrypted by default. That is very important. The moment a message is sent from a mobile device, it gets encrypted and only the receiver’s phone can decode it. There are a lot of apps which will claim to be end-to-end encrypted, but you have to go into settings, find it and switch it on. We take user privacy very strongly. People do not want their intimate personal conversations out there in public, and that is the basic issue some of the major players have seen. Privacy is a birth right. To put it bluntly: we do not sell our user data to make money and it is a compromise we make. We are asked by advertisers and we lose those dollars, but we gain consumer trust.
Viber has some things planned for VisitNepal2020?
It is very important initiative for the country and the government has put numbers behind it so we will be trying to help. We’ll be launching a sticker pack, a helpline and a tourist bot. It’s about meaningful reach.