Steven Millward
Steven Millward
8:30 pm on Sep 24, 2012

As Korea gave birth to Kakaotalk, Japan to Line, and China to WeChat, an Indian startup is looking to have its own group messaging smash hit with the new Hike app. For the moment, Hike is Android-only, but versions for iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Symbian are in the works. Also, Hike has been focusing on just India in its first few months of running – but the aim is for it to go global.

Of course, New Delhi-based Hike will need to challenge some other behemoths in this space, such as Whatsapp, and eventually Apple’s iMessage too. To do this, a Hike team member tells us that the startup is listening to its early users and making good design a priority. And then the big leap: “We will be launching cross [mobile] clients and globally in October this year.”

With India’s phone users being such fans of SMS, Hike is not just relying on its apps, and allows its global users to do Hike2SMS and Indian users to fire back with SMS2Hike. The first option is free for Hike users to do, and the latter response costs only the same as a regular SMS.

In terms of features, Hike is opting to be as minimalistic and judicious as it is with its elegantly simple design. A member of Hike’s ‘growth team’ says of some of its local and global rivals:

They are building features like video chat, voice chat and what not, which the Indian infrastructure does not support. Also, somewhere the customer requires an app which is simple and enables him to do what he intends to, rather than building features which are seldom used.

And so, after consulting with users via social media, the Hike crew will focus on group chat and file transfers, plus a spam filter that they reckon is clever enough to learn what you’d consider to be a rubbish message; but the team is open to other things as input from app users comes through.

After launching just over a month ago on Android and getting into the Google Play store, Hike has between 10,000 and 50,000 downloads from there, mostly in India and without using any marketing, which the Hike team reckons is a good basis for its global roll-out – and the appearance of the iPhone app – next month. The startup is under the wings of the Bharti Softbank (BSB) incubator, which is a joint venture between the Indian and Japanese telcos.

The head of product and strategy for BSB, Kavin Bharti Mittal, weighs in:

People use messaging in various forms; they use it via different apps and modes for different purposes. What we’re trying to provide via Hike is a single application to connect with everyone via messaging. We believe that streamlining this will greatly improve the connectivity of Indians.

And, soon, other markets too.

Though a pretty face and a keen attitude will help it, Hike faces old challengers like Whatsapp, and newer ones like China’s WeChat, which is gunning for Indian users these days.

Get Hike for Android in Google Play – though it’s still limited in which nation’s users can download it prior to the upcoming worldwide roll-out.

[UPDATED: Added in Kavin’s quote]

  • James Choo

    Doesnt make sense for another chat app. The wave is over isn’t it? Choose whatsapp or line or weixin. But why hike?

  • Rob

    Why hike.. India allready has RockeTalk which has voice, video, picture and text chat plus it is supported for all platforms like ios, android,BB, symbain, j2me, bada and even MTK as per their website and various appstores listing

  • Maxim

    How they aim to go global but they are not working on creating/offering features like voice chat that the rest of the world wants/demands?

    I think they will bite the dust in the long run both on the global playground and their own turf..

  • Paritosh

    @James thanks for the comment. There are some really interesting trends in markets globally. These trends are around several pointers:
    1. The Product (that’s critical)
    2. The UI
    3. The Support

    The fact that we aim to make communication seamless globally.

    Another chat app is a little short sighted a view. As we launch globally and once you are on hike, team hike would love to keep in touch with you and take your review.

    -team hike

  • Paritosh

    @Rob thanks for the comment.

    Brilliant to see you following the market closely. Though the real user is evolving and with that, there is a whole new need base building up. Critical points around:

    1. The Product (that’s critical)
    2. Anti- SPAM
    3. The UI
    4. The Support

    We aim to make communication seamless globally.

    As we launch globally and once you are on hike, team hike would love to keep in touch with you and take your review. And sure co-create the next level of growth with you.

    -team hike

  • Paritosh

    @Maxim thanks for the comment.

    When you are on mobile, the exchange is more personal than anything else. Its much more emotional.

    This obviously happens by design, by actually listening to and understanding your real user.

    We have built hike in a co-created fashion with our users. This is what drives hike (the feature set) and hence the growth.

    We love to hear from our users and better everyday! Fail fast, learn and create awesomeness!

    This is a good time to sure share the love with the world, which our existing users have created!

    – team hike

  • adarsh

    Hike is an awesome app I use a windows phone whatsapp is fuck n when I have install hike hike2hike is free but not this I can 100 SMS to non hike user and it will be refill 100 SMS a month so it is millions times better than whatsapp so please download hike now.

  • kanika

    I <3 <3 love HIke. The simple and soothing UI fluid as whatsapp… and SIMPLY AMAZING EMOTICONS.
    More Marketing required!

  • tushar

    great app but waiting for s60 support

  • rahul khurana

    is it availablefor BADA OS 2.0 (i.e samsung wave II )..??
    if not then when will it be available….??
    if you make it available for BADA as well then it can be a plus point for HIKE over Whatsapp..!!!

  • Bangalore

    Why would I use WeChat? So the Chinese government can build a personality database by reading my conversations? No thank you. Whatsapp just turned down a One Billion dollar bid by Google, who also reads personal messages and mails for targetted advertising. Whatsapp is strictly no advertising, and I will gladly pay the 50 rs when my free account expires.

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