3 Keys to In-App Chat Success in India: Low Latency, Data Privacy, & Offline Support

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Component chat and messaging solutions from Stream help app developers succeed with India’s infrastructure, user base, and privacy regulations.

Explosive growth in India’s digital economy creates a promising opportunity there for app developers, with some reports estimating the sector’s value at over $1 trillion by 2025. It’s a particularly exciting market for those working to deliver the next generation of great in-app messaging and chat experiences — as of the third quarter of 2019, some 85 percent of Indians were using messenger applications. We expect demand for feature-rich, low-latency messaging experiences to continue to rise as more and more Indian users connect to high-speed internet, purchase smartphones, and download mobile apps.

Even with so much promise, the Indian app market presents a handful of unique challenges that software teams must overcome in order to achieve success in terms of user adoption, engagement, and retention. Those challenges tend to fall into three major categories: performance and reliability at scale, user connectivity issues, and the need to navigate new privacy regulations. All three categories affect both Indian companies and global organizations looking to expand and serve more users in India.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the tools and approaches available to help product and engineering teams negotiate these challenges as they build and scale in-app chat and messaging services for users in India.

Low-Latency Messaging Solutions

India’s massive land area, diverse geography, and evolving physical infrastructure sometimes make it difficult to deliver a consistently high-performing, reliable, and low-latency messaging experience to all users. To ensure fast response times and a lag-free UX, many organizations based further away choose to stand up dedicated cloud infrastructure within the country.

With the Stream Chat API, for example, app developers and their end users enjoy an extremely low-latency messaging experience supported by the AWS region in Mumbai (ap-south-1 in AWS). Previously, engineers using Stream to build chat in or around India would connect to the Singapore region (ap-southeast-1 in AWS). Cloudping.co measures round-trip ping times between Mumbai and Singapore at an average of about 60 milliseconds, but now, users in Mumbai connecting to the Mumbai region instead of Singapore can expect round-trip ping times below 2ms. Actual response times will vary based on distance from the data center, but the overall performance improvement is significant.

Internet Connectivity Challenges & Offline Messaging Support

Due to geographic and socioeconomic factors, users in India can have varying degrees of access to high-speed internet and mobile networks. As in other countries, some rural areas may not have the physical infrastructure to support broadband, whereas users in more developed areas enjoy top-tier speeds. Connections may not always be reliable, and in some places, mobile networks have leapfrogged cable to become the primary method for internet access.

Inconsistent connections create another obstacle for app developers working to provide a seamless messaging experience. The right chat back end will support offline messaging, with logic and storage in place to deliver messages in chronological order even if one or more users goes offline intermittently. A great offline messaging platform should let users send messages and reactions and even create channels while they’re offline. When the user comes back online, the library should automatically recover lost events and retry sending messages. Offline storage can also allow for optimistic UI updates.

Privacy & India’s Personal Data Protection Regulations (PDP)

Since 2017, the Indian government has been working to refine and adopt legislation similar to the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), intended to protect users’ privacy and personal information as they interact with digital businesses. International publications refer to the legislation as India’s personal data protection regulation (PDPR) or its data protection bill (DPB) interchangeably. According to Harvard Business Review, this data privacy law regulates the “collection, processing, storage, usage, transfer, protection, and disclosure of personal data of Indian residents.”

Any organization doing business in India must comply with the regulations, which group data into three different categories: personal data, sensitive personal data, and critical personal data. Sensitive personal data, for example, includes financial data, biometric data, health data, and religious affiliation, among other kinds of information. PwC India’s need-to-know guide includes a more detailed look at data classification.

Comparing India’s Privacy Law vs. GDPR

Many of India’s new privacy requirements are similar to those mandated under GDPR, so global organizations already proving GDPR compliance may be nearly compliant in India. Still, a few key differences could require attention, and product and engineering teams need to make sure all chat and messaging features manage user data properly.

Like GDPR, India’s personal data regulations give users more control over their personal information. According to Carnegie India, the bill gives users “the right to access, correct, and erase their data,” and digital businesses must have processes in place to reasonably accommodate such requests. Users must also actively consent to the collection of their data — the now-ubiquitous website cookie notifications created in response to GDPR are a start, though some apps may need to include additional prompts in order to be fully compliant in India.

Differences between India’s PDP and GDPR, though relatively minor, could create roadblocks for teams that don’t plan around them. In an effort to reduce online trolling, one proposed addition would require digital companies to verify all users’ identities, similar to what Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter do with blue check marks for celebrity accounts, but on a massive scale. Another requirement dictates that all sensitive data from Indian users must be processed within India’s borders, which makes the dedicated cloud infrastructure discussed above even more critical. Finally, digital organizations operating in India may also be required to provide the Indian government with aggregated, anonymized user data for analysis upon request, and may need to develop methods to provide that data. Corporate privacy violations in India can result in civil penalties similar to those created by GDPR, but unlike the EU regulation, they may also result in criminal charges for individuals involved.

Launch Best-in-Class Messaging in India with Stream Chat

Instead of developing in-app chat and messaging technology from scratch, many product and engineering teams turn to component solutions like the Stream Chat API and SDKs to deliver a high-performance white-label messaging experience that they can customize to meet their users’ needs. With beautiful UI kits and front-end SDKs for iOS, Android, React, React Native, and Flutter, Stream Chat makes it easy to ship a scalable, reliable, low-latency messaging solution at a fraction of the time and cost it would take to build in-house.

Stream Chat also comes fully equipped to meet the needs of organizations operating in India, with a dedicated infrastructure region in Mumbai, robust offline messaging support, and the features needed to build chat in compliance with India’s privacy regulations.

Activate your free Stream Chat trial to begin testing your app integration today.