Telegram the dominant messaging app in Iran with more than 17M Iranian users only on Android, may lose its market share to other potential competitors namely WeChat, VK and KakaoTalk.

Last week, TechRasa got an anonymous tip that VK and KakaoTalk are in talks to find Iranian partners to enter Iran’s market. A day later, We got another tip that WeChat is also in talks to find an Iranian partner. At that time we didn’t have any official news from the government that Telegram, the dominant messaging app in Iran, may be out of the messaging apps’ game. But yesterday the news finally came out: “Iranian messaging apps would take the place of foreign messaging apps in one year time,” said Abolhassan Firouzabadi, Iran’s Secretary of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace. You might be wondering how the Iranian messaging apps are related to WeChat, KakaoTalk and VK?

Why is there so much interest?

The answer lies with the new regulation that has been recently announced. According to the new regulation: foreign messaging apps with over 50% of equity owned by Iranians and also registered as a company in the country will be considered as local messaging apps. And Iranian messaging apps are getting hefty incentives from the government including:

  • If an app has up to 1 million users, the government would let them do advertisement on their platform.
  • If an app has 1 million up to 3 million users, the government organizations must support the app by advertising on their platform.
  • If an app has 3 million up to 5 million users, the government would grant them a license to have banking and eGovernment services.
  • If an app has over 5 million users, the government would connect them to the telecommunications network and treat them as an operator. The telecommunications operator license costs around 300 million euros in Iran which would be a good incentive for these kinds of apps.

That’s why these messaging apps from the countries that have a good relationship with Iran are rushing in. WeChat, the Chinese’s messaging app has over a billion created accounts, 700 million active users with more than 70 million users outside of China. In 2016, WeChat had 864 million active users. In addition, KakaoTalk from South Korea and VK from Russia are amongst the messaging apps that showed interest in the Iranian market. Right now, these companies are in talks with potential Iranian partners and would finalize their deal before May 2017 according to an anonymous tip. But which of these apps would win the market? We think there might be 3 different parties trying to win this game:

  • Local companies which want to develop their messaging apps using foreign technology: Such as HiWEB according to an anonymous tip. HiWEB is in talks with KakoTalk. HiWEB had a similar experience before by partnering up with Vodafone.
  • Local companies collaborating with foreign messaging apps: WeChat and VK are in this group according to the anonymous tip.
  • Local messaging apps: There are few messaging apps that have been developed inside the country. These messaging apps have a small chance of winning this game due to the lack of users (Mobogram the biggest local messaging app has 500K users), experience, trust and awareness.


Is Telegram going to get left behind?

Currently, we have no information whether Telegram is in talks with local companies or not. In the past two years, Telegram had the chance to move their servers inside the country to keep its position in the market, but they didn’t. That’s why the government forced new regulations to shake the messaging app market in the country. Right now there are many companies which their main social media channel is Telegram and they are getting a good traffic from it. There have been instances that a major e-commerce company had up to 5% of its traffic from Telegram. We guess, soon they have to think of some other social media channel to get a good traffic from.

If you are are wondering more about Telegram and its impact on Iran you can head to this post.

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