With Spain conquered, Line looks to Latin America

FC Barcelona and Real Madrid soccer club profiles on app have more than 12 million followers

Sunny Kim, Line's chief executive in Spain.
Sunny Kim, Line's chief executive in Spain.ÁLVARO GARCÍA

It was created in June 2011 as a way of keeping in touch after the tsunami in Japan. In January of this year, its users numbered 100 million, and by summer that number had doubled. Now there are 300 million people using Line.

Sunny Kim is the vice president of the company, and the chief executive of the firm in Spain, where there are six employees. There are plans to hire more people next year, however, given that "we now have 15 million users here," she explains.

The average profile of Spanish users is hard to pin down. "There is a very wide range, because it goes from young people to parents, older folk, family groups..." The key to the surprising success of the instant-messaging service in Spain lies with the interest among Spanish users for the latest apps, but there is also the company's ability to take advantage of the weaknesses of its competition. "Every time WhatsApp was down people went out looking for alternatives. They found Line and stuck with it," Kim says.

Since its launch, Line has always been a multiplatform app. The same profile can be used on a cellphone, tablet or computer. In Spain, its use on tablets is growing fastest, with computer use the slowest.

Every time WhatsApp was down people went out looking for alternatives"

Another key to Line's growth was the creation of official profiles, such as those of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid soccer clubs, whose success has exceeded expectations with more than 12 million followers.

"Our latest experiment is education-based," Kim explains. "We have an account to help you learn English. At 9.30am we send out the lesson of the day. Around 30 percent of those who start the course continue with it."

Latin America is another of their objectives right now. In Mexico, Line has more than 10 million users, while the app is also taking off in Brazil and Argentina. In 2014, Kim has a clear objective: to recreate the success seen in what she describes as the "key countries" of Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Despite the stiff competition in the market, Kim argues that the service has great advantages over WhatsApp. "We have offices here and a regional plan," she says. "We want to be leaders in this market and we are constantly looking for agreements with partners. Our dream is that the day starts and ends with Line. Your cellphone is your life, and Line wants to be at the center of that, and become the most-used mobile social platform."

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