mig33 is one of those stories that we in North America don't follow that closely. Now with over
69 million users, they are a rapidly growing mobile social network, with voice, IM and chatrooms as well. It's a pretty full featured mobile community, but with it's South Asian and Australian roots, it flies under the radar here.
Two days ago mig33 announced that they had struck a deal with Lutiek a large South African distributor, to provide prepaid services in that country. The press release said:
With this deal mig33 is now a viable option for prepaid card vendors looking for a differentiated product to add to their distribution channel, opening access to mig33’s loyal base of repeat buyers to them for the first time. Unlike traditional prepaid phone cards which just offer voice calls, mig33’s prepaid offers users to access a mix of free and inexpensive services like VoIP calls, instant messaging, text messaging, social networking and community features, allowing users to apply their prepaid value to a variety of services beyond international voice.
Intrigued, I asked Erica Jostedt at Sutherland Gold (mig33's PR agency) a few more questions. CEO Steven Goh replied…
AS: Is this the company’s first foray in prepaid?
SG: This is the first significant foray. We've got users who've established prepaid channels on our behalf in several other countries. The size of our userbase in South Africa (2m ~ 8% coverage of the population of South Africa) is significant. (AS: and as a percentage of Mig33's overall userbase, South Africa is hugely significant!)
AS: Why South Africa only? Prepaid’s a huge business in North America
SG: South Africa will be the first of many countries. We're starting there because of the size of the userbase, logistics, etc. The reality of payments in most countries is that legitimate credit card usage is concentrated to a few countries only. We are not going into prepaid to the last store ourselves, we're a platform with a unique differentiated product and services for existing prepaid channels, and we're out looking for distribution partners.
AS: Who are Lutiek, and why did Mig33 pick them?
SG: Lutiek is one of many distribution options that we have in the country and they're of a size to make a meaningful partnership. They've historically been in physical prepaid (distributing starter packs and other prepaid goods to retail in that country).
AS: What are the prepaid services being offered? Is it just VoIP calling? I thought your other services were already free, so I guess I am betraying my ignorance here.
SG: Users can watch for other users coming online, buzz users, and engage in premium chatroom activities. In the near future, users will also be able to buy exclusive mobile content and a range of others services. A parallel to what's in store is facebooks' gifts, and items in tencent QQ's virtual goods' economy.
Very interesting model and probably the best way to approach Mig33's youthful demographic.