Social networking giant Facebook is the number one choice for emerging brands in the United States to get the word out for their brands and reach out to customers. However, in India, Facebook is proving to be a costly option for startups and they are now turning to a service that is much more personal and costs almost nothing—WhatsApp.
A living example of the success of the WhatsApp promotion trend in India is digital health start-up 1mg. Within just two years of its launch, the startup has garnered more than 9 million downloads for its app, which helps users in researching prescription drugs and finding the lowest price possible. The best part of 1mg’s success is that its founders have not spent a penny promoting his business and all these applaud worthy numbers are courtesy WhatsApp promotion.
According to Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report for the year 2017, WhatsApp is the most popular Android app in India, followed by Facebook Messenger at number two and the core Facebook service at number five.
1mg’s success story began when one of its users drafted a long WhatsApp message about the app’s benefits and the message instantly went viral with hundreds of people sharing it. According to its co-founder Prashant Tandon, a Stanford Business School graduate, his company has spent no money whatsoever in marketing in reaching where they’re today.
Tandon returned to his home country India in 2009 with an aim of building digital tools for the country’s health care system, which was flailing back then. This vigour to do something for Indian healthcare system gave birth to Tandon’s first entrepreneurial venture, HealthKart, which is into selling health and wellness products online in the country. During his time at HealthKart, he realised the big price differential between the various generic medicines in the country and decided to do something about the situation, and this is how 1mg came into existence.
Tandon had a foresight that 1mg would be a success in the country as unlike many other countries in the world where insurance covers the medicine expense, people in India still buy their medicines from their own pocket. However, he didn’t expect 1mg to become this big a success this soon.
The startup, which has Silicon Valley’s technology investors like Maverick Capital, Sequoia Capital and Omidyar Network in its kitty, allows consumers to buy prescription drugs, order diagnostic tests and consult with a physician online. A consumer can even upload a prescription to the app via a smartphone photo, and the medicine will be delivered straight to the user’s doorstep. The model has proven to be a major success in the rural pockets of the country with little access to doctors and pharmacies.
The power of WhatsApp has made 1mg one of the largest digital health companies in the country with 65 million page views per month.
It seems, Mark Zuckerberg’s gamble of buying WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion in 2014 is paying out well. While back then people were a little skeptical about why the social networking pioneer would shell out such an amount for a popular messaging service that generated almost no revenue, but it seems Zuckerberg had it under control all this time. According to Pacific Crest Securities, in the near future, each active WhatsApp user could produce at least $2 of revenue per month.