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A NEW STARTUP WORLD ORDER

WhatsApp or Slack? India’s startup community debates the best way to interact

Indian students look at text message from mobile phone in eastern Indian city Indian city of Kolkata.
Reuters/Jayanta Shaw
What is the message?
Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

The Indian startup community is debating the best way to stay connected and WhatsApp seems to be a winner.

“What is a good channel to create a real-time startup group for the community?” Vijay Anand, founder and CEO of accelerator Startup Centre asked on his Twitter handle on Oct.14. Around 37% of the 270 respondents chose Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp.

“I have been on a few of these groups, the WhatsApp ones have outlived the others,” Dipankar Sarkar, one of the respondents, wrote on the thread.

Slack, the cloud-based proprietary instant messaging platform designed especially for workplaces, came in second with 27% votes. “Slack scores because you may have different channels/tracks for discussing specific ideas. (Plus) low probability of random forwards,” Rahul Jalan, co-founder of ed-tech platform Biziga, wrote. “WhatsApp/Telegram are great staying-in-touch tools, not so much get-work-done tools.”

One of the best encrypted messaging apps, Telegram had a fan following almost on par with Slack.

During the Twitter conversation, many users contributed their list of pros and cons about the three apps. Here’s a roundup:

AppProsCons
WhatsApp
  • Easy
  • Lots of engagement
  • Mobile numbers are exposed
  • Distracting and unorganised
  • Too much noise
Slack
  • Threads and channels can help organise conversations
  • Plugins
  • Interaction typically slows down after an initial enthusiasm
  • Mobile version has some issues with notifications and can’t upload multiple files
Telegram
  • Free, cloud-based, can hold up to 5,000 people in each group (It can actually hold up to 200,000 in a group, the company clarified)
  • Better notification compared to Slack on mobile
  • Open-source
  • Has more features like Spam remover bot
  • Not popular or ubiquitous yet, so it’s a hard channel to grow in

The other options

Discord, a widely-used service by gamer teens in the US, found the fewest takers. However, elsewhere in the world, it is somewhat popular. For instance, California-based crowdfunded e-sports team Ardent United, opted for Discord over Slack, calling the former “the superior tool.”

“Discord has voice channels, which allow us to easily chat with our supporters and other team members. Discord also allows us to set user roles and permissions which makes moderation extremely simple,” the team wrote in a Medium post. “While Slack has more business integrations, Discord is catching up with many community made bots (Discord has a great developer community)…Slack is a large memory hog, but Discord is relatively lightweight.”

One user tried to suggest that Startup Centre’s Anand, who got the online conversation started, should look into making a brand new app altogether since it’s “cheap and easy” these days. But the startup guru is skeptical. “Getting folks to use it, to manage the app and then trying to find ways and means to monetise the app to keep the server costs paid for will become a full-time job by itself,” he wrote.

And when all else seems too cluttered and complicated, there’s always good old email, a user suggested. “Plain. Vanilla. Trusted.”

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