Hike’s New App To Un-Bundle Its Own Services To Compete Head-To-Head With WhatsApp!


For those who don’t know yet, Hike is an Indian messaging app valued at more than $1 billion. And it is now taking a unique approach to battling WhatsApp which involves demolishing its own service… but then wait, isn’t that a self harming process to speak about? Well no, not in this case because it is there for better- Hike is actually layering it on budget Android phones and offering free connectivity.

The company, which is stiffened by the likes of Tencent and Foxconn, today unveiled Total, built by Hike– a new service aimed at reaching novice smartphone owners and first-time internet users in India.

The Hike is in a difficult position of competing fairly with WhatsApp, which is as a matter of facts the world’s most popular chat app and counts India as its largest single market with over 200 million active users. For the record: that’s two-thirds of India’s internet using public. By contrast, Hike said it had collected 100 million registered users in January 2016, but there’s been no further update since then.

CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal plays down the competition:

WhatsApp doesn’t have to lose for Hike to succeed, but with Total, Hike is being more nimble that its Facebook-owned rival and redesigning itself to offer a different kind of experience to reach new internet users before WhatsApp gets them.

The most notable part of Total is that it runs without a data connection.

Bharti Mittal told:

That’s important because Hike has noticed a general slowdown in internet adoption growth in India. Last year’s launch of Reliance Jio, which offered free data packages for a time, took the number of Indians online to around 300 million, but Bharti Mittal believes the number is stuck due to factors like price and the challenge of just setting up a phone.

He further explained in an interview-

It’s a 15-20 step process to step up a smartphone and that’s complicated for the first time mobile user. Combined with pricing, that makes it very scary.

Total, then, is Hike’s effort to make things easier. The startup teamed up with mobile carriers and OEMs for Total, with device makers bundling a tweaked version of Android that makes Hike the default text/call app and loads features like Hike’s wallet, cricket news and horoscopes. The registration process is now down to under five steps, too.

Owners of Total-powered devices can get online without a data plan thanks to an adaptation of USSD, a technology that is typically used to send basic information to devices like balance checking.

Hike further said:

We have developed a proprietary system that, with approval from carriers, allows USSD to be used for basic internet access. Supplied for free, it allows a range of Hike services to operate on a device when it is offline.

Bharti Mittal further quoted:

Our goal is still to bring one billion people online. The Total connection is pretty good but it is not the internet, we want people to come on to rich services.

Also, as the model would demand operator-to-device and phone manufacturers’ partnership, Total has also incurred some major players from the telecom industry. Initial partners include AirTel (obviously), Aircel and BSNL- which cover around 40 percent of India’s market- while four smartphones from Indian OEMs Intex and Karbonn due to launch March 1. They will be priced from 3,500 INR ($55).