Hike, the instant messaging app, within just about three and a half years has gained much popularity in the country. Recently, the app, developed by Kavin Bharti Mittal in the year 2011, has left behind Flipkart and Snapdeal to join the ‘unicorn’ pack in India which includes the companies valued at at least $1 billion.
The money raised by the company till date accounts to $175 million which the founder considers equal to $1 billion raised by Flipkart since the startup is the sole company among the unicorn pack which is free. Kavin has decided to start making money with the app by 2018 or 2020.
The firm receives no returns because it has lower critical mass. The critical mass is a number that keeps shifting with the shifting internet user base in India, according to Mittal. There are 200 million active internet users in India, of which just 15% are using meaningful data (more than 0.5 GB), 35% use sachets packs and 35% are accidental users (log on only with Wi-Fi), he says.
“So you have just 30-40 million meaningful users. This mix has to get better — to at least 70% meaningful users. In the US, the average usage is 4gb per person per month. In India it is less than 0.5 GB; lots of people use less than 10 MB a month! You can’t send photos and download videos with that,” says Mittal.
However, Kavin is in no hurry to get revenue. He is just focused on growing the app. The app is not only free but it also provides the users to send messages without an internet connection.
The hike is a heavy 18 MB app with three distinct features: first, it is built with data constraints in mind. Users can send messages— Hike2SMS or Hike Direct—even without internet connection. Second is security which includes a hidden mode that hides chats. Even if someone else gets hold of the phone, he can’t see what messages were exchanged if the feature is activated.
Sharma of Paytm says Hike will make money eventually when the platform enables transactions and people start paying for services like they do in China on WeChat.