Japanese mobile messaging service Line promotes Takeshi Idezawa as its CEO

Line Corp, the company that owns and operates Japanese free call and messaging app Line, has promoted COO Takeshi Idezawa as its next CEO. Idezawa will succeed Akira Morikawa, whose term of office will expire in March 2015. However, Morikawa will assist the new CEO as an advisor to the company.

According to Line, Morikawa has notified the company of his decision to leave the position as CEO upon the termination of his current contract. The company has decided to create a new managerial structure by appointing Idezawa as his successor in order to drive the next stage of global growth for Line.

The appointment of Idezawa as the new CEO is subject to the approval of the general shareholders' meeting and the board of directors' meeting to be held in March 2015.

As the CEO, Morikawa had been mainly responsible for management and external communications. Idezawa, who was appointed the director and COO in January 2014, and subsequently the representative director and COO in April the same year, has taken charge of overall operations including the Line service.

Earlier this year, Line Corp had filed for an initial public offering (IPO) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange at $10 billion valuation. The company has already hired Nomura Holdings Inc and Morgan Stanley to manage the IPO in Tokyo and is also considering listing in New York.

The company develops and operates the Line app for smartphones. It enables free one-to-one and group messaging, as well as free domestic and international voice and video calls. Line also includes a wide array of social elements such as fun and expressive stickers and family games. Line recently added features such as games, comics, free voice and video calling, and photo & video sharing.

Line had recently introduced its premium voice calling service in India. The service allows users to make low-cost calls to non-Line mobile phones and landlines. Line users can already make free calls with one another. Introduced a couple of months back, the service is currently available on both Android and iOS operating systems.

Line had formally launched in India in May last year, and had also roped in Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif as its brand ambassador. In the country, the company has tied-up with online sellers such as Groupon and Jabong to offer deals to its customers.

In October 2014, Line claimed to have over 30 million registered users in India. And while this number is just over five per cent of the 560 million registered users the app has globally (in 230 countries), it makes India one of the largest markets for the company.

Competition in India

The app competes with the likes of WhatsApp, Hike and WeChat, among others. Hike, the instant messaging app from BSB (Bharti Softbank- the joint venture between Bharti Group and Japan's Softbank) claimed to have crossed the 20 million users mark in June this year. At the time, close to 90 per cent of the app's users or 18 million users were from India.

In comparison, cross-platform instant messaging app WhatsApp added ten million users in the last couple of months in the Indian market, and had 60 million active users (MAUs) in the country as of Aug 2014. Globally, the app had crossed 500 million monthly active users mark in April this year. The company is yet to reveal its latest figures.

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