Hike Messenger, which became a unicorn (private firms valued at more the $ 1 billion) last year, on Tuesday announced the launch of its wallet, becoming the first messaging app in India to do so.
Hike, founded in 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal, son of telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal, raised $175 million in August last year from investors such as Chinese internet firm Tencent and Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn at a valuation of $1.4 billion. Kiran Rathee interviews Hike's founder and chief executive officer, Kavin Bharti Mittal.
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 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 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 -III cities. Do you think, with the launch of new features, you will be able to break into metros?
Hike is quite popular among Tier-I and metros. Our top-four states are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Out top-four cities are Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Delhi.
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 to take the reins of Bharti Airtel?
Hopefully never. (Airtel chief executive) Gopal (Vittal) 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.