No matter how good of a product you design, at the end of the day, it’s your consumer that dictates where your business should be headed. Palringo started out as a service to connect to all your most used Instant Messaging services such as MSN, GTalk and ICQ from your mobile. However, the developers quickly found out that their users were more interested in connecting amongst themselves. And thus Palringo changed directions and dropped support for the multiple IM clients focusing purely on the group chatting features.
They were recently in the news for their successful charity campaign that raised over $230,000 during Ramadan- thanks to their user base of over 2 million users from the Middle East. I had the opportunity to chat with Najam Kidwai, the Middle East Advisor for Palringo, and he was nice enough to answer some questions I had for him.
1) Tell us a little about Palringo
Palringo started life as a communication platform. The message was two-fold: Download Palringo, connect to a range of third party IM services (AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, GTalk, Gadu Gadu etc) and manage them efficiently on mobile.
Users joined Palringo to do mobile IM. As they did that, they also discovered the ability to talk directly Palringo – to – Palringo and found that they could set up a group. The group based communication grew strongly and we reached a point where the volume of Palringo – to – Palringo messages was the dominant form of communication.
In parallel to this, there were some communities that picked up on this type of functionality and did substantial word of mouth recruitment to build our user base. This was particularly the case in some gaming segments where, for example, clan based games from companies like Storm8 almost required users to be on Palringo.
2) How big are groups in Palringo?
Our technology allows up to 2000 people to be active in one single chat group. However, group chat dynamics tend to function best with a few hundred people in order for relationships to be formed and topics to be engaging. The strength of the application for our regional users is in the ongoing stories that unfold over time and users growing their reputation. We have users that have been on the application for years.
3) Where and how do money and transactions come into play?
In the Middle East, we have a partnered with CashU which continues to be extremely successful. Users pay real money to acquire Palringo Credits and they use these credits within the app to buy Chatbots, upgrade their account, message packs and more. For $0.99 you get 100 Palringo Credits.
4) Tell us a bit about your Ramadan charity promotions
Palringo is very strong in the Middle East. A large percentage of our revenues originate from here thus it was logical to assume we could use the power of the community to raise money during Ramadan. We partnered with Charity Right and Islamic Relief. Users were asked to install a free ChatBot into their group and members donated by typing a command which would then send part of the users Palringo Credits (our virtual currency) to the kitty.
We were very surprised at its success given that we had a target of $100,000 (but raised over $230,000.) This shows that users are very happy to spend money on the mobile given the right mechanism. We don’t think anything has been done like this before in the region, so we’re excited to do further campaigns
5) What mobile platforms are you focusing on?
Last year we dropped Symbian, Java and BlackBerry as that had very few users. This enabled us to focus more on features users loved on the Android and iOS platforms. Android at the moment is showing a rapid increase in number of users especially in the first 6 months of this year.
6) What are your future plans
We’ll be exhibiting at Gitex in Dubai in October and we’re building out our gaming capacity. Currently we’re looking to connect to regional developers and game companies to discover ways we can work together and deliver the next generation of chat and gaming functionality to our Middle East users before the end of the year. We believe that local relevance is key in this area.