FireChat, which was a major force behind the Hong Kong crisis, is now looking for new markets. The BlueTooth based mesh-network chat system is looking to move into India. The mesh-network gains strength in these densely populated areas, which gives marketers a very strong platform to reach their customers.
Crisis has fuelled FireChat's success across Hong Kong and Taiwan, but the app's creator is looking to India as the key market entry point for Asia as a new channel for brands to reach large, unconnected audiences.
FireChat, the app that became the star of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests - because it allows users to keep communicating even when the traditional grid comes down - could have an equally radical and democratizing effect on digital marketing across Asia, giving marketers in the region access to consumers in markets previously unreachable due to low levels of Internet penetration.
Open Garden, the software behind FireChat, allows users to communicate directly with each other by using the radios in their smartphones to connect to other phones nearby, creating a chain of connectivity through a local network. For example, in developing markets, this could provide more reliable communications, enabling people to receive and exchange information for free where Internet infrastructure remains weak.
"Many consumers in India are totally inaccessible, and FireChat promises connectivity to low-tier consumers that brands have never been able to reach before," says Fergus Hay, managing director of Social@Ogilvy APAC at Ogilvy & Mather.