Mxit, all grown up

2013-02-27 11:00
Vincent Maher of Mxit says that the company is focused on future growth. (Mxit)

Vincent Maher of Mxit says that the company is focused on future growth. (Mxit)

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Cape Town - Mxit has grown up from a simple messaging platform to mobile ecosystem and despite the growth of international sites like Facebook and Twitter in SA, Mxit is still a dominant player.

The company has also seen the departure of long-time CEO Herman Heunis as well as rock-star CEO Alan Knott-Craig jnr after a short tenure.

Despite that, the company maintains a user base of over 50 million and is poised to grow into smartphones, and chief marketing officer Vincent Maher chatted to News24 about the company's direction and strategy as mobile devices become smarter and more competitors enter the market.

News24: What does Mxit regard as the biggest threat to its business?

Vincent Maher: The perception that Mxit is an instant messenger is the biggest threat. Messaging has become a commoditised an incredibly crowded space with lots of different options for users from the traditional SMS to video.

Mxit considers itself a chat service with the added functionality of apps and our challenge is to shift consumer’s understanding and experience of our value.

News24: How has the social network evolved to cope with the rise of smartphones?

Maher: Mxit has recently launched version 6.4 for Android. This is a great example of how Mxit is using the functionality imbedded in smartphones to enhance the Mxit experience. We are working with the technology and using it to stretch our thinking about the service, rather than resisting it.

News24: Have personal privacy concerns in SA evolved from the early days of Mxit?

Maher: In general, people have become more comfortable with managing their online identities and coping with the dangers inherent on the internet. This means that users are tending toward taking more responsibility for their private information and want to be empowered to make decisions about what they can and can’t share.

News24: Is the social media landscape reaching stability in SA?

Maher: The social media landscape in South Africa is in a state of flux where anything could happen. There is room for massive innovation and the war for market dominance is still raging. It’s a good time to be playing in this space because nothing has been determined. The game is still on and anything could happen.

News24: What do you see as the dominant platform for social media, and Mxit in particular, in the medium term (three years)?

Maher: Mobile remains the dominant platform for Africa. The call within that is - smartphone or feature phone? Android or Apple? Mxit has the view that features phones are going to get smarter and Android will be the dominant smartphone operating system of the future. This is reflected in our development, where almost all our energy is funnelled into Java and Android.

News24: How has the leadership direction at Mxit changed since the departure of Alan Knott-Craig jnr?

Maher: The direction remains to use the mobile phone to solve problems for people in emerging markets such as Africa. Our business is being built on solving problems rather than simply building cool tech.

The most relevant our business becomes to the daily experience of our customers, the more sustainable we become.

Alan Knott Craig jnr was always vocal about the potential the mobile phone has as a catalyst for positive change. This hasn’t changed at all.

Read more on:    mxit  |  mobile

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