NEW DELHI: India's mobile owners are increasingly turning to instant text and voice messaging apps, and canny retail and entertainment brands are taking note, as the typical user is aged between 15 and 35.

Figures from Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights (NIMA), quoted by the Business Standard, indicate that usage of chat apps among smartphone owners increased from 70% to 86% over the year to November 2013. An executive with an app brand described this area as "the market for the future", although he added that it would take some time to monetise.

Popular apps such as WeChat and WhatsApp, both of which have around 30m active users in India, have been being joined by new entrants including Line, from Japan, which has about 15m users, and Hike, a local Indian offering, with just 5m users at present.

And Blackberry has gained a new lease of life after making its BBM feature cross-platform and reaching agreements with local handset makers to have it preloaded on their devices.

Blackberry is also planning to introduce its BBM Channels service offers a similar functionality to Twitter and allows brands to set up dedicated pages where they can communicate with consumers.

WeChat already operates something similar with is Official Accounts, where retailers such as Café Coffee Day and Big Bazaar are present alongside entertainment brands including the Colours TV channel, PVR Cinemas and Hungama, a Bollywood film and music site.

WeChat has been promoting its service heavily with TV commercials featuring high profile stars such as actors Parineeti Chopra and Varun Dhawan, and claims to have become the second most downloaded app in India within seven months of its launch.

Global data from research firm Gartner has highlighted the growth of apps generally, predicting that by 2017 mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268bn times and generated $77bn in revenue.

"Mobile apps have become the official channel to drive content and services to consumers," said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner, in remarks reported by technology website CiOIL.

"As users continue to adopt and interact with apps, it is their data – what they say, what they do, where they go – that is transforming the app interaction paradigm," he added.

He further predicted that wearable devices would drive 50% of total app interactions by 2017.

Data sourced from Business Standard, CiOL; additional content by Warc staff