Google Prepping India-focused Competitor to WhatsApp?

Google Logo IRLGoogle is reportedly preparing a WhatsApp-style messaging app, targeted at users in emerging markets.

According to Indias Economic Times, Google product manager Nikhyl Singhal has been sent out to the country to research its app ecosystem ahead of a launch, most likely in 2015, and possibly starting in Asia and then roll out to other countries.

The app itself will reportedly feature an automated voice-to-text function, which could prove to be its USP. It will be free to use – WhatsApp charges users a small annual subscription after the first year – and wont require a Google log-in, raising the question of how Google intends to monetise the service.

Developing a WhatsApp competitor makes sense for Google, which is rumoured to have been in talks to acquire the company before it was snapped up by Facebook for $16bn (£10bn) in February.

Along with its Project Loon and Android One initiatives, this app also looks like part of a wider attempt by Google to get a foothold in emerging markets, as smartphone penetration begins to take off.