TEN years ago, before the advent of social networking, Twitter and unlimited text promos, Pinoys had already developed a way to stay connected for free amidst the high charges of mobile phone companies.
The company cleverly called “Chikka” or slang for “small talk” provided a service that allowed users to exchange text and chat messages throughout online and mobile communities worldwide. And whether the telecom companies would want to admit it or not, I am pretty sure Chikka was among the reasons why they eventually came out with their various text offers.
Founded as Chikka.com in 2000 by Dennis Mendiola, Alexandra Roxas and Chito Bustamante (currently chief executive officer), the owners of the company said they wanted to devise a customer service application that would connect Internet-to-mobile communities. The company then developed the Chikka Text Messenger (CTM), which combined the features of instant messaging and SMS technology. This application was originally intended for a small e-commerce business that catered to an overseas community for the delivery of gifts to their home country, in this case, the Philippines.
It was no surprise that the online community, including overseas Filipinos quickly embraced Chikka Text Messenger, as it united them with the sea of SMS users in the country.
At a time when Internet penetration was very low (2 percent of population in 2001), Filipinos nevertheless became part of an IM community, via their text-enabled mobile handsets because of CTM. It was also designed to withstand SMS volume in a country sending 30 million messages daily, which made us the “Text Capital of the World” in 2000.
It became one of the first commercially successful integration of web and mobile utilities (IM and text messaging) and has brought other popular online activities like auctions and even dating to mobile users who simply relied on SMS to engage online buddies.
Ten years of small talk
Furthering its mission to keep Filipinos overseas in constant touch not only with their families but with their Pinoy roots as well, the company started Chikka Live—a series of live stream concerts that featured Filipino online stars.
Together with Levitation and NU Spark, Chikka Live gathered celebrities in the internet cosmos for a weekly music event.
“The Global Filipino has always been the inspiration for Chikka. We knew how probably more than any other culture, foreign lands have beckoned to Filipinos, but that more than any other culture, too the need to stay connected, remain rooted is so strong among us,” said Junie Agcaoili, Chikka Corporate Communications director.
With over one million followers from various social media channels, Filipino Youtube sensations (based in various regions in the world) comprised the impressive artist lineup of Chikka Live. They include Country-Pop duo Krissy and Ericka, Filipino-American singer/songwriter A.J. Rafael, Australia-based R&B artist Christian Joseph, Pinoy Big Brother heartthrobs James Reid and Bret Jackson, World Championships of Performing Arts winner Aria Clemente, and trio acoustic group 3AM and the talented Lamar Brothers. Irish-Japanese acoustic star, Marié Digby even guested during the Independence day concert.
“The artists of Chikka Live are online musical sensations in their own right who represent today’s Global Filipinos,” Agcaoili explained, “Many of them are themselves based abroad. Their massive fan followings include many many Filipinos here, and really, in every corner of the world.”
“In Chikka Live, fans and viewers from anywhere in the world are just a Chikka text away from their favorite artists,” explained Nino Villongco, NU Spark’s chief social media operator. With the online interaction they can easily post comments, make requests and even win special prizes just by watching the concert online,” he added. With how media is consumed nowadays, young and old viewers are refreshed with real, unstaged and most importantly an authentic showcase of these artists via these new media event.
“The Global Filipino is a very sophisticated worldwide citizen. Ten years ago, out of his need, a mobile instant messenger was invented to serve his very needs.” Chikka Live is a celebration of this Global Filipino talent and some of the greatest bonds between all of us—song and laughter and plenty of small talk,” Agcaoili adds.
The pop duo of Krissy and Ericka kicked off the series in May. The sisters currently have over 74,000 followers on Facebook and over 13 million upload views on their Youtube account. Their success on the internet paved the way for record deals and gigs alongside Sam Milby, Owl City, and the Popular Korean Ballad group 2AM.
Chikka Live may be nearing the end of its first series of concerts, but the organizers say they are already busy preparing a lineup of performers for its next series. One artist they plan to invite is 90s pop idol April “Boy” Regino who has a lot of Pinoy fans overseas.
Aside from the Chikka Messenger app for the iPhone and Android phone, there is also a Chikka Messenger app available in Facebook called ChikkaLite. The app allows you to send a text message from Facebook making your messages and your greetings a bit more personal as it will be sent directly to the recipient’s mobile phone.
Global Filipinos make up more than half of Chikka’s sign-ins on a regular basis. Because Chikka connects one Filipino who is online to another who is simply on a mobile phone, texting, Chikka has become the Philippines’ favorite instant messaging application. 68 million have registered to use the service locally and globally. To this day, it lives to bring Filipinos together combining the convenience of sending a free text message online with the personal warmth of receiving a text message on one’s mobile phone.
For a business based on small talk, the company has definitely generated a worldwide buzz—and that certainly is no chikka.