Viber aiming to be super app, 'but not like WeChat or Facebook'

Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2020 08:48 AM

MANILA - Messaging platform Rakuten Viber is aiming to become a “super app” with its move to fintech territory, the company’s CEO said on Wednesday, but not in the same way that WeChat dominates China or even how large Facebook has become.

The company recently announced that it had formed a partnership with Globe Telecom to let Philippine users of its app to buy goods and services through a new feature called “Chatbot Payments.” 

The feature was previously introduced in other countries in partnership with Google Pay and Apple Pay. Viber’s move into fintech is similar to what WeChat did in China, which started as a messaging app, but quickly became virtually indispensable in daily life after it moved into digital payments. 

“I don’t like the term super app because it’s too arrogant for us,” said Viber CEO Djamel Agoua during an online press gathering to mark the company’s upcoming 10th anniversary in December.

“But your question is valid, it’s exactly what we want to do. We really want to be able to provide more services to our users,” Agoua added. 

Agoua and other Viber officials declined to specify when the new payments feature will be launched, but hinted that it may be released in time for the Christmas holiday season. 

The Viber chief said that since the pandemic hit the Philippines, the app has seen a 170 percent increase in the use of its ‘Communities’ feature, which lets friends, family and coworkers keep in touch via a chat group. The feature also allows businesses to keep in touch with customers. 

Agoua said that they are aiming to make Viber a platform for businesses of all sizes by combining communities, chatbots, payments services, and other tools. 

But he added that they don’t want Viber to become “monopolistic” like WeChat, or “intrusive” like Facebook. 

“We want to bring those businesses to the users without creating a feeling of intrusion,” Agoua said. Ordinary Viber users should choose to go to businesses instead of businesses being advertised, like in Facebook, and intruding into the lives of users, he explained. 

Viber also doesn’t aspire to become like WeChat which “tries to do everything by themselves,” Agoua said, adding that Viber wants to work with local partners.

“Our objective is not to steal users from these partners. It is to help their distribution, and to make their services more efficient, easier to understand, easier to be understood by the users.”

He added that while the Viber app competes with Facebook Messenger, the company doesn’t see itself as competing with Facebook in particular because its revenue model differs from the social networking giant. 

“Overtaking Facebook, to be honest, is not an objective. We want to be an alternative.”

Watch more in iWantTFC