6 February 2017

Africa: Under New Management - BBM Platform Seeks to Leverage Its 22 Million African Users With a Package of Music, Video, Games and E-Commerce

The death of Blackberry as a mass retail handset company has led to the licensing of its BBM platform to an Indonesian company. What's this got to do with Africa? CEO of BBM Matthew Talbot explained it all to Russell Southwood.

On June 27th 2016, Creative Media Works (a division of Emtek - one of Indonesia's largest media companies) announced a strategic alliance with BlackBerry to accelerate BBM's development and evolution by investing in bringing new and exciting consumer focused features, services and content to the BBM messaging application. As part of this strategy BBM is making it's API's available to accelerate the growth of partners and service such as:

- Content - music and video streaming, games, sports and news channels, celebrity blogs and more

- Commerce - shopping, gifting and coupons/vouchers

- Online to Offline Commerce - booking movies, travel, health services or job postings

- Finance - payment processing, money transfer, mobile phone re-charge, and utilities billing

Like all social platforms, it wants to leverage its user numbers to deliver content, e-commerce and mobile money:"We have launched everything from video to news, coupons and vouchers, games, content and services and travel. We need to be the one app that everyone has on their phone and chat is bigger than social networks."

Creative Media Works now operates under the BBM banner as a stand-alone consumer focused business with offices in Waterloo, Mississauga, Ottawa, Singapore, Jakarta and South Africa.

According to Matthew Talbot:"Obviously they didn't have the core products like social media and chat apps but (in numbers) we dominate Indonesia with 65 million users." To make this jump BBM has now gone multi-platform: 90% of its users are now non-Blackberry and of those 90% are Android and 10% are iOS:"There is still interoperability."

In Africa, BBM has some pretty impressive numbers. There are 22 million registered users and 17,000+ people a day are signing up. 70% of these users are active on a daily basis and there 380 million messages daily. 9.2 million visit the BBM shop on a monthly basis.

What do they know about their users?:"We have general demographics on our user base. 60% are female and 70% are under 34."

90% of these users are in Sub-Saharan Africa's big markets, Nigeria and South Africa:"We're focused on our top 10 markets around the world and these are two of them where BBM continues to be one or two in the market. As part of its African strategy it will be adding in Q1 payment for top up and bills, P2P and shopping in Nigeria and games, a marketplace and shopping in South Africa:"We will shortly include transport services for both countries." It will also be doing sponsorship in these markets for local music and entertainment opportunities.

"We need to focus on the two biggest markets. You need to have focus and allocate resources accordingly. We have critical mass in these two markets and they are strong markets where use has held up."

So what's the business model?:"In our feed we're generating 26 million ad requests and brands can say 'that's the app for us to insert an ad into. We have a direct sales force and also partner with Inmobi and Google. Mobile advertising continues to grow." The other revenue is taking a percentage of transactions conducted over the platform:"We have the eyeballs." Current advertisers include a range of brands including Nissan, Emirates, Garnier, Coca Cola, Visa, Levi's and MTN:"We've had all the big brands you'd expect.

So how do mobile operators view the platform?:"They see how they can increase data use with the platform and increase ARPUs and they are using the APIs. We've always had a good relationship with the operators from the BBM days. We can target ads for mobile operators. Also we continue to package subsidized data for messaging."

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