WhatsApp Business rival reaches 1m users

Read time 3min 30sec
From Left:  Stephen Newtown (CEO) and Gour Lentell (Executive Chairman) of biNu.
From Left: Stephen Newtown (CEO) and Gour Lentell (Executive Chairman) of biNu.

Messaging app Moya Messenger has gained over a million monthly active users, eight months since its launch.

Moya Messenger is a data-free mobile messaging app targeted at enterprises looking for new and innovative ways to engage with mass-market mobile users in SA.

It was developed by Cape Town-based software solutions firm biNu in December 2018. The firm helps commercial businesses, public agencies and not-for-profit organisations build content, including full and micro Web sites, apps, full-screen video advertising and surveys.

The key differentiator between Moya and WhatsApp Business is that no data cost is incurred by Moya users to send and receive one-to-one or group messages, or visit a range of data-free Web sites and apps.

The company says the Android-based app has grown virally, reaching 650 000 active daily users and 1.1 million monthly users.

“The Moya app has allowed us to provide our entire app data-free directly to our target market,” says Justin McCarthy, CEO of Ubu Project.

“The results have been nothing short of spectacular. We have grown our engagement rate with our user base by a factor of 10x. Moya has been a game-changer for our business."

BiNu focuses on addressing a major persistent problem where consumers pre-pay for their mobile access and the cost of data prevents many people from using online services such as mobile money, apps and Web sites, notes McCarthy.

“The two key differentiators to WhatsApp is the data-free messaging capability and Moya Discover, a feature included in the Moya Messenger app, which provides users of the app with no data cost access to a range of online content and services,” he points out.

“We are seeing interaction rates with our adverts placed in Discover three to four times higher than that which we obtain in conventional social media channels.”

The company creates messaging APIs for enterprises to communicate with their audiences and develops survey platforms, which it says provide a lower cost alternative to conducting market research.

Fundamental to biNu’s business model is the idea of "toll-free data”, which the company calls data-free. This model is premised on a reversed billing data model.

This data-free service enables the owner of a Web site or application to pay for the data used to access their site rather than the cost being borne by the mobile phone user. This effectively zero-rates the organisation’s digital touchpoints for the consumer.

“The toll-free calling industry has been around for decades with proven business models and scale. We are doing the same for mobile data. The mass-market consumer is difficult and expensive to reach and engage on their mobile phone, because data is expensive and people limit their time online.”

BiNu says it has reverse-billing agreements in place with MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom in SA, and in Nigeria with Airtel and MTN, with more to follow.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet, which monitors mobile broadband prices across low- and middle-income countries, to measure affordability and encourage policy change to lower broadband industry costs, found that in Q4 of 2018, 1GB of data in SA cost 2.3% of average income, higher than the affordability threshold of 2% or less of average income.

Gour Lentell, co-founder of biNu, comments: “The viral success of Moya shows the strong value proposition of data-free messaging.

“Moya provides an audience platform of hard-to-reach mobile users that consumer brand companies and others struggle to reach through traditional online marketing channels. Our model enables enterprises to reach and engage with mass-market mobile audiences through the use of toll-free data services.”

Moya will soon be available on iOS. It can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and the Moya Messenger Web site.

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