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Talk360 eyes 'inclusive' African communications

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 21 Feb 2022

Calling app Talk360 wants to be entrenched as a leading voice over internet protocol (VOIP) player in Africa, says Dean Hiine, co-founder and managing director for Africa.

This, as telecoms providers increasingly shift focus from voice to data services.

“I don’t believe we’re a competitor to the telcos,” Hiine said at a media engagement hosted by Talk360. “I actually think we are an enhancement to the telcos.

“The telcos’ business model has evolved over the years. Their biggest focus right now is not calling or voice per se; their biggest focus is data and enabling data services. That’s part of the reason why we’ve been able to fill that gap quite nicely because our core focus and only ambition right now is to make sure we are the leading VOIP player – that’s the ambition.

“With the telcos, I think we should have a chat with them. We provide something that could be of interest to them and they already have packages around some OTT [over-the-top] services.

“My philosophy about that is that they’re a business and they’re not necessarily making money from those, but they could make some revenue from us,” he noted.

Founded in 2015, Talk360 defines itself as an “affordable” international calling app that enables calls to any local or international landline or mobile phone number in the world.

The app counts users in over 190 countries, including South Africa. Last year, it connected over two million people across the globe, it states.

Explaining the objective behind Talk360, Hiine said the calling app was born out of a need to break communication barriers.

“The reason we’ve built the ecosystem around the app is purely to make sure we can inclusively allow people to have communication options and alternatives to be able to communicate – that was the ultimate goal.”

According to Talk360, a receiver does not need an online connection or the app to receive a call, noting this as one of the differentiating factors from the myriad of calling apps and solutions in the market.

To purchase Talk360 call credit, users can top-up using their local currency and preferred payment method. The calling app supports over 30 currencies in Africa and the Middle East, and over 60 payment methods, specifically targeting underserviced communities in Africa.

The app is committed to being the bridge for people that don’t have an internet connection or a smartphone, stated the co-founder.

“We won’t say that we’re a pioneer when it comes to technology; VOIP technology has been out there for a long time.

“The telecommunications space has network operators providing communication services, and there’s big uptake now of free services.

“The free services come with their challenges, and one of the biggest challenges for a continent like Africa is that internet penetration is not that great. Therefore, the user-experience of the product could be compromised as far as connectivity is concerned.

“We are trying to fit in within that gap – we’re a paid-for service but we mitigate the user-experience where connectivity is an issue, particularly for the recipient. Most of the people that use the app have the app itself but are in countries where the connectivity is strained.”

Dean Hiine, Talk360 co-founder and managing director for Africa.
Dean Hiine, Talk360 co-founder and managing director for Africa.

In South Africa, where it currently has 50 000 monthly active users, Talk360’s traffic is people making local calls, whether it is landline or mobile, noted Hiine.

In addition, the app is resonating among foreign national communities, with the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities among its fastest-growing and best-performing markets in South Africa.

“There have been a lot of reasons for it [growth]. For example, Ethiopia has had some issues in the last couple of months with internet blockages and stuff like that. We had already been growing within that community but we saw a ramp-up when the [internet shutdown] happened.

“We’ve been able to infiltrate some of the foreign national communities in the informal sector, mainly because airtime vouchers are available via informal channels like spaza shops. We’ve seen significant growth among foreign national communities for the uptake of Talk360 for them to make international calls as well,” Hiine concluded.

Users can download Talk360 from the App Store, Google Playstore or Huawei AppGallery.