Hike Messenger, which became a unicorn (private firms valued at more the $1 billion) last year, announced on Tuesday the launch of its wallet, becoming the first messaging app
in India to launch online payments.
Hike, founded in 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal, who is the son of telecom czar Sunil Bharti
Mittal, raised $175 million in August last year from investors such as Chinese internet firm Tencent
and Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer at a valuation of $1.4 billion.
The payment wallet is Inspired by WeChat
— the messaging app
owned by Tencent
that allows users to shop, make payments, QR code that replaces business card all on a single app
with nearly a billion users. Hike's payments feature will allow its over 100 million users to transfer money and pay bills through the messaging
platform. It also has features such as app
themes and magic selfie as it looks to grow its subscriber base amid intense competition from the likes of WhatsApp and Jio Chat.
"Over the last six months, we have been working to bring a brand new experience to our users with one question in mind — How do we take all the things that users love about Hike and make it even better? Hike 5.0 is our most ambitious step in that direction till date," says Kavin Bharti Mittal
in an interview. Edited excerpts:
Do you want to become the WeChat of India?
We don't necessarily want to become WeChat
of India but we have been thinking about payments for a very long time. As a matter of fact, we have been thinking about it from a couple of years ago but we wanted to launch it at the right time. So while payments through messaging
apps have been done globally, the concept of blue packets is very different, it's very Hike.
The wallet also has a feature termed blue packet, which users can insert money into and send to their friends. Users can also add a personalised message to it to celebrate special occasions.
So we are doing what we think is right for our ecosystem. But you must realise Tencent
is our partner and we are very much inspired by them. We had been talking about payments and what they have been doing, so we have taken inspiration from Tencent.
Is Tencent guiding Hike regarding the payments feature?
We have been talking for kind of everything about technology and not only payments but also chatting, video and other things. Payments have been the focus in the last few months.
You now have the first mover's advantage?
Absolutely, we are the first. It's not only payments, there so much about the app.
No doubt payments will lead to growth because when you send a blue packet to a person, who doesn't use Hike, that person needs to join Hike to get it. We don't have any projections but time will tell because blue packets are brand new, so we are going to wait and see and only time will tell.
If you see the overall subscribers' profile, most of the users are based in tier II and tier III cities. Do you think with the launch of new features, you will be able to break in metros?
Hike is quite popular amongst tier I and metros. Our top four states are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Out top four cities are Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Delhi.
also has a payment banks. Do you think the Hike wallet
will compete with Airtel's payment bank?
We have been competing with Bharti since day one. Earlier, it used to be messaging
because Hike was cannibalising SMS, then it was cannibalising calling. Airtel
is a different company.
Are you looking at raising more capital to fund your growth plans?
We raised $ 175 million last year, which is a lot of money. We discussed that it was going to last 2.5 to 3 years and we are only 10 months in, so we are well capitalised. We are focusing on building good stuff.
When can we expect you taking the reins of Bharti Airtel?
Hopefully never. Gopal Vittal (Airtel
Managing Director and CEO) and the team, they are incredible. They are the best guys managing the business, you can see it. So hats off to them and I will focus on Hike in building the company.