Hike, the social messaging app from the house of BSB (a joint venture between Bharti Group and Japan’s SoftBank), has announced that its user base has crossed the 15-million mark recently. Started in December 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal, son of Sunil Bharti Mittal, Hike has been seeing some decent traction amongst the youth. In its latest release, the company states that 80 per cent of this user base is under 25 years of age.
In a conversation with exchange4media, Kavin Bharti Mittal shared that 90 per cent of Hike’s user base is from India. It is also interesting to note that while peers are indulging in celebrity endorsements and ATL activities, Hike has stayed away from any major marketing initiatives. Apart from one digital campaign a while ago, which comprised of short YouTube videos, Hike has not done any advertising.
“We’ve achieved most of the 15-million milestone organically. We’re constantly looking at the best ways to communicate with our users, be it inside the app, or outside of it,” Mittal said.
When asked if staying away from marketing is a risky proposition as out-of-sight could be out-of-mind for potential customers, Mittal said, “We’ve crossed 15 million users without making any external noise, so to speak. External noise can boost numbers temporarily. However, to win in the long term, the product has to live up to its promise.”
Another aspect that differentiates Hike from its counterparts is that it does not have a revenue channel. While WhatsApp is a paid app, LINE sells sticker packs to users, and WeChat has several B2B partnerships; Hike, as of now, is completely free. The biggest reason for this is that it is the youngest player in the market. The user base has not yet reached critical mass to start charging for any value-added features.
“To think of money is the wrong approach at this stage,” explained Mittal, adding, “Creating a product in the digital space is a lot like building a highway. You have to first build the fundamental infrastructure, after which you can think of returns by charging a small fee to each car that travels on the highway. The infrastructure in our case is our users. The larger the count, the bigger and better the infrastructure, post which one can think about monetising.”
Mittal further said that the ecosystem has not yet fully evolved and that poses a challenge. He also hinted that getting the right talent is the biggest task at BSB since the domain is at a very nascent stage in India and experienced people are hard to find.
In just over a year, Hike has shown promising growth. In June last year, the company had announced that they had hit the mark of 1 billion instant messages. It also offers a feature known as Hike to non-Hike SMS wherein users can message friends who are not on Hike. This feature has particularly struck a chord with youngsters.
With WhatsApp being acquired by Facebook for a huge price, the social messaging apps segment is buoyant and high. Who emerges as the next formidable force in the ecosystem remains to be seen.