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Mobile group messaging service SMS GupShup rebrands to GupShup, launches messenger app

Mobile group messaging service SMS GupShup has rebranded to GupShup Technologies and also launched a messenger app. Set up in 2007 by Mumbai-based Webaroo, SMS GupShup started as a mobile group messaging service that enabled users to create mobile communities and broadcast messages to them.

As a group messaging platform, GupShup claimed to have around 65 million users, interacting via 4.5 million SMS communities or groups. The promoters also claim to be sending around 2.1 billion messages a month. However, the current leap from a group messaging service to a messaging app is to leverage the growth of internet usage on mobile phones.

The new app launched is device agnostic and available for all major platforms such as Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Nokia S40. In addition, people using basic java feature phones can also receive/send messages via the GupShup messenger like an SMS. Users can also send messages to a larger audience across various communities via the public messaging feature.

"Emerging markets such as India and Indonesia have numerous feature phone users even as smartphone adoption is growing. Services like GupShup that integrate data and SMS, are well suited to the needs of emerging markets," said Beerud Sheth, co-founder and CEO of GupShup. "Social media tools cannot afford to leave the vast population out of the conversation "they must be inclusive, not exclusive," he added.

GupShup is funded by Charles River Ventures, Helion Ventures, Globespan Capital and Tenaya Capital. It raised a Series E round of funding in 2011, led by US-based venture capital firm Tenaya Capital, and also included existing investors Lloyd George, New Horizons, Charles River Ventures, Helion Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners.

With the advent of smartphones, messaging apps have sort of flooded the market. Last year, Bharti Softbank released a similar app called Hike which also enables users to interact, regardless of which phone one is using. But the major problem with such apps is that there is no provision for feature phone users. Basic phones which cannot download the app can only use it as an SMS service, which is not incremental in itself.

Although the GupShup messenger claims to have both public and private messaging rolled into one, it can't surpass the popularity and reach of Facebook and Twitter apps which are pre-loaded in most of the phones nowadays. Of course, the promoters claim to have a device-agnostic focus but at the end of the day, an app is useful only when one can download it.

"We are looking at associations with multiple people in the ecosystem. Whether it's with the device makers for a pre-loaded app or a content-based partnership, we are open to all," said Sheth.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)

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