Telegram takes on WhatsApp with business-focused features

Those features are free, but only for paid Premium users.

Anadolu via Getty Images

Telegram isn't quite as widely used as WhatsApp, but businesses can now add it as a communication option for their customers if they want to. Anybody on the messaging app can now convert their account into a business account to get access to features designed to make it easier for customers to find and contact them. They'll be able to display their hours of operation on their profile and pin their location on a map. With their operating hours in place, customers can see at a glance whether they're still open and what time they're closing for the day.

A screenshot showing a business profile on Telegram.

Businesses can also customize their start page and display information about their products and services on empty chats, giving customers a glimpse of what's on offer even before they get in touch. To make it easier to respond to multiple inquiries, Telegram Business accounts will also be able to craft and save preset messages that they can send as quick replies. Of course, they can also pre-write greeting and away messages that get automatically sent to customers who contact them. They can use a Telegram Bot to chat with their customers, as well, though we all know how frustrating it can be to talk with a robot when we need to talk to a human customer service rep. All these features are free, but only for those with a Telegram Premium account, which costs $5 a month.

In addition to introducing its new business-focused features, Telegram has also revealed that it's giving channel owners 50 percent of the revenue earned from ads displayed on their channels, as long as they have at least 1,000 subscribers. Based on information previously shared by company founder Pavel Durov, Telegram seems to be doing well financially and can afford to be that generous. Durov told The Financial Times that he expects the messaging app to be profitable by next year and that it's currently exploring a future initial public offering.