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FireChat Eyes Rural Penetration in India

FireChat is looking to India as the key market entry point for Asia as a new channel for brands to reach large, unconnected audiences.
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FireChat is looking to India as the key market entry point for Asia as a new channel for brands to reach large, unconnected audiences. "Many consumers in India are totally inaccessible, and FireChat promises connectivity to low-tier consumers that brands have never been able to reach before," Fergus Hay, MD of Social@Ogilvy APAC at Ogilvy & Mather, stated.

Open Garden, the software behind FireChat, allows users to communicate directly with each other by using the radios in their smartphones to connect to other phones nearby, creating a chain of connectivity through a local network. In developing markets, this could provide more reliable communications, enabling people to receive and exchange information for free where Internet infrastructure remains weak. Recently, it has become the star of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests since it allows users to keep communicating even when the traditional grid comes down.

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India's 2014 Digital Advertising Report, India has 243 million Internet users with penetration in urban cities at 36 per cent but just 6 per cent in rural.

Kristin Low, founder of design consultancy On-Off Design and Technology in Hong Kong, remarks that the FireChat app will help brands to penetrate these low-tier regions in India.

"A $5 data plan is going to make a big difference in these regions, and free chatting is going to be key, because once you get adoption, you have tons of opportunity to generate revenue," Micha Benoliel, FireChat's creator and co-founder, and CEO of Open Garden said. "I completely see brands getting verified accounts to push their products. It's an easy way to broadcast information to a large number of people without the Internet."

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