Viber's announcement that it will close down its representative office in Viet Nam next month has raised the question of the competitive capacity of foreign and domestic over-the-top (OTT) services in Viet Nam.
|A screenshot of Zalo application's website. There are over 30 million Zalo users now in Viet Nam. — VNS Photo Doan Tung|
Viber opened its representative office in Viet Nam in January 2014 in competition with Line, Kakao Talk and Zalo.
The race shifted to Viber and Zalo since the entry of Viber to the Vietnamese market.
It is estimated that there are over 30 million Zalo users and 23 million Viber users.
The fall of foreign OTT services in local markets is not surprising as a recent report by Global WebIndex showed that in Asia, local OTT apps had taken the advantage in domestic markets against OTT services from Europe or America.
For example, the two leading OTT apps in the world, WhatApps and Facebook Messenger, are fading away in the Asia-Pacific region.
Line has the fastest growth rate in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand, Kakao leads the Korean market and Wechat is number one in mainland China.
The Japan-based Asia Plus Inc's survey of 500 people on what texting applications were used the most frequently revealed in September in HCM City showed that 87 per cent of used Facebook Messenger, followed by Zalo (61 per cent) and Yahoo! Messenger (56 per cent).
The survey also showed that Yahoo! Messenger was popular among people aged over 30, while Zalo was popular among teenagers.
Nguyen Dang Quynh Anh, Viber's Country Manager in Viet Nam, said the move was part of the company's changing strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Viber Media Co will establish its headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region in the Philippines. The headquarters will manage marketing activities the Southeast Asian region including Viet Nam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Thailand and Myanmar.
When asked why the office in Viet Nam was being closed down, she said: "We have fulfilled our mission of creating a foundation for Viber in the Vietnamese OTT market. The OTT market is a multinational platform that connects people in different countries, not just those in one nation."
There have been many opinions raised around the shut down of Viber.
Some experts questioned whether there are opportunities for foreign OTTs to compete with domestic services.
Online newspaper Vneconomy.vn quoted a representative of a mobile phone network in Viet Nam as saying that Viber Viet Nam did not have a positive business model, plus the competition from domestic OTTs made it difficult for Viber to survive here