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To promote app use, Jana offers users in emerging markets free data credits

By Dennis Keohane , written on May 6, 2015

From The News Desk

It's no secret that one of the big reasons that Facebook paid more than $22 billion (a rough estimate based on the company's current stock price) for WhatsApp last year was the messaging application's enormous international presence. Fostering global user growth may also be part of the reason that Facebook launched the Internet.org initiative to bring more people online.

Mobile device use has become more prevalent across the globe — especially in emerging markets like India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, and Pakistan — mainly because of cheaper Android phones and other non-Apple mobile devices.  As potential customer numbers continue to explode, companies are faced with two hurdles to market penetration: One, getting on the radar of new mobile users, and two, making it worthwhile to spend costly data minutes using their applications.

Jana Mobile, a mobile marketing company that first gained traction with users in emerging markets by exchanging mobile data minutes who engaged with targeted advertising has just launched a product that aims to help solve both of those problems.

Launched today, Jana Loyalty makes it possible for companies to not only reward customers in emerging markets who download their applications but also to reimburse them for the data they eat up while using the apps. The way it works is that for apps that partner with Jana can track the amount of time that users, who are part of the loyalty program, spend on their specific application and give them mobile credits for the period of time used. Part of what makes it possible for Jana to offer the service is the direct relationship it has established with more than 230 international mobile providers over the years.

"Previously what we have been doing is offsetting the cost of the install, giving people a sense that they could download an app without incurring data costs," Jana founder and CEO Nathan Eagle told me. "But we found that people were hesitant to actually use the app, because every time you use something like Twitter, that is money coming out of your pocket," he said.

The credit that Jana customers receive does not have any restrictions on how it can be applied to paying for more mobile connectivity. So, data minutes that may be accrued while searching Amazon don't have to be used on the minutes spent on the company's app, for example.

And the new offering seems to be working. App developers who trialled the product during its beta period, saw a three times uptick in application usage through Jana Loyalty. As Eagle explained, the adoption of mobile devices is the fastest growth expansion of technology in human history, and brands and Internet companies know that want to be on the phones of the next billion consumers coming from emerging markets.

The offer of free data may not seem like a major incentive in the U.S, where monthly data costs are minimal. But in emerging markets, people often spend large percentages of their daily earnings on connecting to the Internet through mobile devices.

It's a lucrative proposition to be the middle man between high-growth mobile users markets like the Philippines, South Africa, Chile, and Argentina, and e-Commerce and social media companies -- Jana was profitable for the first time this year since launching in 2009.

Consumers seem to be taking notice. Jana's mCent app has 25 million registered users, and in India, Jana is the second largest app advertising platform behind Facebook, and the company is just starting to get traction in various parts of China.

"We are trying to make the Internet free, in an unconstrained way," Eagle said.