Rakuten-Viber-Hiroshi Mikitani

Messaging apps have been releasing crazy numbers and revenues. As a result in the month of February we saw messaging app Viber acquired by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten Inc for $900 million and WhatsApp acquired for $19 billion by Facebook.

While the tech community has more or less digested the two acquisition news, Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten and Japan’s third-richest person with a net worth of $8.2 billion, in an interview with Bloomberg Technology shared that he aims to expand to 2 billion users with his acquisition of messaging service Viber Media Inc.

The free messaging and voice based app is already adding 600,000 users daily, up by about 50,000 from Feb 14 when the deal was announced. At the time of acquisition, Viber had 100 million active users from its 280 million global registered users; Mikitani wishes to add a million users a day.

Mikitani acknowledges that Viber deal was a big one at a time when Rakuten had a $29.5 million net loss last year. So the focus is to monetize for the company that paid about $3 for each of Viber’s users.

Talking about his strategy for making money from Viber, he has three layers which are: operating Viber as a standalone business, introducing games through the messaging platform and developing synergy with its core e-commerce and finance businesses. Besides this the company also plans to use its loyalty program that gives online shoppers points they can use to make purchases to help drive signups to Viber.

While Mikitani has complete focus on Viber, the messaging app world has become extremely competitive with players like Line, WeChat in the Asian continent. Then there is WhatsApp which is now powered by Facebook and already has 450 active users across the globe. After the acquisition the app announced that it now wants to disrupt the voice call business.

At a time when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg aims to reach more than 1 billion people in the next few years, Mikitani aims to reach 2 billion. Isn’t that way too ambitious a declaration unless Mikitani has more acquisitions in mind?

Image credit: Nacion