Hike - The Journey of the Indian Messaging App and How it is Building a Web3 Gaming Platform?

Rishabh Rathi Rishabh Rathi Anik Banerjee Anik Banerjee
May 7, 2022 15 min read
Hike - The Journey of the Indian Messaging App and How it is Building a Web3 Gaming Platform?

Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified information on different startups and organizations. The content in this post has been approved by Hike.

Development in the communication sector has been fast and amazing. From letters to landline phones; from pagers to smartphones, we have come a long way. And now, one of the most loved ways of communicating is messaging apps, which are making communication not just easy but fun too!

Speaking of the most trending messaging apps, one name that we won't afford to miss is the Hike Messenger app owned by Kavin Bharti Mittal. With over 100 million users, this homegrown messaging app of India has given fair competition to WhatsApp, the world's most preferred messenger app. Founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal in 2012, Hike Messenger was once a billion-dollar startup. However, it failed to capitalise on the headstart it received, and slackened down through the years ultimately to be shut down.

Hike Messenger is Officially Shut down and has been removed from Google Play Store and Apple App Store. However, the company still exists. Yes, though Hike has been shutdown as a messenger, the company has not stopped altogether. It is currently aiming to build a web3 gaming platform (Rush Gaming Universe), and might also successfully pivot. Of its messaging platform, the Hike Stickers can still be used though on other platforms like Signal, Whatsapp, and Telegram by downloading "Stickers by Hike".

The company has constantly looked for monetisation plans through which it would be benefitted and had also pivoted on numerous occasions, but it failed on most occasions. The Hike messenger app certainly failed with the tough competition it got from Whatsapp. However, there was one occasion where it tried to create a super app, it focused on Hike Sticker Chat, it turned the way of gateway for microtransactions with HikeLand, and has finally decided to launch Vibe and Rush in 2021, with a complete focus on multiplying the app revenues.

Read on to know more about this successful Indian startup, its founder, startup story, business and revenue model, its current revenues, competitors, funding and investors, growth, acquisitions, future plans and more.

Hike Messenger - Company Highlights

Startup Name Hike Messenger
Headquarter New Delhi
Founder/Owner Kavin Bharti Mittal
Sector Messaging App
Founded 2012
Funding $261 Million
Revenue $1.5 mn (Rs 11.9 crore in FY20)
Parent Organization Hike Private Limited
Website hike.in

Hike Messenger Officially Shuts Down (Latest News)
Hike Messenger - About
Hike Messenger - Founder
Hike Messenger - Startup Story | How it started
Hike Messenger - Name, Tagline and Logo
Hike Messenger - Business and Revenue Model
Hike Messenger - User Acquisition
Hike Messenger - Competitors
Hike Messenger - Funding and Investors
Hike Messenger - Growth and Revenue
Hike Messenger - Acquisitions and Investments
Hike Messenger - Future Plans


Hike Messenger Officially Shuts Down (Latest News)

Hike shut down its messaging service, by shifting its focus to two new social products—Rush and Vibe. It was rebranded as Hike Sticker Chat with a sticker-centric experience in April 2019

On January 6, 2021, Hike informed its users that it will be shutting down its messenger and was given a deadline till January 14 to migrate their data.

Kavin Mittal didn’t give a reason for shutting down the service, Mittal tweeted that global network effects are too strong for India to have its own messenger.

Hike Messenger - About

Hike is an Indian app and essentially is a cool messaging platform for chatting with funky and killer stickers that came in to innovate the messaging world. Hike, founded in 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal, was the first messaging and social technology company made in India. Some of the features of Hike are:

  1. Two-way option: This option on Hike enables the users to add or accept the contacts before messaging and also the application has security measures that allow the users to prevent messages from strangers.
  2. Offline messages: The users can receive message notifications even when the mobile data is disabled.
  3. Free SMS: Hike messenger allows its users to send free SMS to any given number.
  4. Theme-based interface: The whole idea of Hike is having conversations using some interesting graphic mediums like reaction stickers etc.

Hike Messenger introduced HikeLand

Tencent-backed Hike Messenger has introduced a new offering called HikeLand which is a mobile virtual world where people can participate in many activities. HikeLand allows users to hang out with their friends and watch videos together in a virtual environment. The move has come when sharing experiences via social networks has strengthened due to people staying at homes.

The early preview of HikeLand includes two shared experiences - ‘Home’ and ‘Big Screen’.

It explained that the home screen will be only for the user themselves, more like a private space. In this mode, users can watch YouTube videos and talk about it with another user. There will be eight themes to choose from and the home screen can be customized depending on the likes of the user. No one who is uninvited can enter this room.

The Big screen, on the other hand, is unlike Home and is more open. Hike’s Big Screen allows users to watch videos with other people. To start with, Big Screen is currently powered by YouTube and would be running shows 24x7 around comedy, sports, and others. Users that enjoy similar content can be a part of it. While viewing the show/video of choice, users can find out more about others watching the same content through their profiles and even message them.

“With advancements in technology, so much is possible today that wasn’t even just a few years ago. The world has evolved, it’s time for social products as well. With HikeLand, we’re launching the world’s first mobile-first Virtual World. A brand new take on how people can hangout online, transcending beyond the limitations of the offline world”, Hike founder and CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal said.

The company said HikeLand is a homegrown product that has been built from the ground up keeping India in mind.

“It is an India-first product built for a mobile-first/mobile-only audience. Leveraging diversity of art skills and resources, HikeLand also brought together a design team of not only UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) but also fashion, art, and 3D artists”, it added.

Rush Gaming Universe

Hike introduced Rush Avatar. It would be debuting with Rush Avatar, which is planned to stand as an NFT and digital identity for the Rush users, thereby moving the Rush Gaming Universe to the blockchain on February 28, 2022.

The Rush Avatar NFTs would be offered by Hike for free to the most active members of its community, where the rarest editions would go to the most active members. Furthermore, it has also been decided that 10% of the Launch Edition’s supply would be further used for future community giveaways, NFT sales, and partnerships.

The messenger app company has previously tried to pivot via a super app business, where Hike planned to integrate the digital wallet, ticketbooking and ecommerce services into the app. However, this didn't pay off well for the company, which is why it ended the same idea in 2019. hike then tried to run its Hike Sticker Chat, focusing on it largely, but even this didn't materialize profitably for the company, and was shuttered in January 2021. HikeLand was the next venture that it tried, where Hike turned into a gateway for microtransactions, and in-app spending.

Launched in June 2020, HikeLand saw a good traction right form its testing days, where the users spent a minimum of 50 minutes in the app on an average. This is why the HikeLand idea was again integrated into Vibe and Rush. Hike launched Vibe and Rush in 2021, where:

  • Vibe is a rebranded version of HikeLand and offers interactive social media experiences to the customers.
  • Rush is a mini-games platform by Hike, which would offer the users casual gaming experiences that will include microtransactions.

Hike also has HikeMoji, which extends animated avatars for the users, and will further be incorporated into Vibe and Rush.

“With Vibe & Rush, we now have 2 Virtual Worlds that focus on a single ‘Job to be Done’ each thus simplifying the UX. A much better approach for today’s world that is unconstrained by cheap, fast data & powerful smartphones,” tweeted Mittal recently.

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Hike Messenger - Founder

Kavin Bharti Mittal is the founder and CEO of Indian instant messaging app Hike, and also the son of business tycoon Bharti Mittal.

Founder/Owner Hike
Kavin Bharti Mittal Founder & CEO, Hike

Before he started his venture, the founder of hike was studying Electronics and Electrical Engineering at the University of New York and then went on to Imperial College in London to study further. He first joined McLaren Racing as an Associate Vehicle Engineer Intern, after which he joined as an Associate Technology Manager at Google. Then it was Goldman Sachs that Mittal joined as Summer Analyst before founding Hike, where he is still serving as the Co-founder and CEO.


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Hike Messenger - Startup Story | How it started

All of this was based on a basic insight to make the messaging module a little bit more interesting, and right when the world was busy chatting on Whatsapp and Facebook, Kavin, owner of the hike app, thought of coming up with a trendy and cool way of messaging. This is why Hike was launched on 12-12-12. It's quite interesting that this application was made available in more than 100 countries ever since its launch.

Hike 4.0 launched on 26 August 2015 with the tagline 'Got a Gang? Get on Hike'

Hike Logo

Hike ran a full fledged marketing and brand campaign across TV, radio, and Cinemas. The tagline for one of their TV ad was “Hike up your life” to convince youth to download the Hike app.

Hike Messenger - Business and Revenue Model

Hike Messenger believed in providing the users with an interactive social media chatting app that helped them to communicate and make their communication interesting via an amusing set of stickers. It later went on to build a virtual economy business model.

Hike's operational revenues were disclosed to be Rs 13K in FY20, while its total revenues stood at Rs 11.9 cr during the same fiscal. Almost all of its revenue came from sources other than the operations of the company, which includes the interest income on fixed deposits, current investments and more. There was around 55% decline in the Hike revenues from FY19, where the messenger picked up revenues close to Rs 26.4 cr and around a 70% decline from Rs 39.6 cr revenues, which it pulled off in FY18.  

Hike Messenger - User Acquisition

Operating in multiple countries can be a tedious task but Hike kept the users glued to the app using multiple marketing methods.

Following that, in August 2013, Hike launched its first-ever digital campaign which ran under the banner “keep your friends close”. The advertisement was a big hit and the users took it very well. Kavin knew that the key to any successful business is customer satisfaction. Hence the team started taking in real-time feedback from the users for further and better development of the product.

What also worked well for Hike was their tie-up with Airtel. They ran a scheme that if the user had an Airtel postpaid connection in India, they would be given free data for three months for using Hike Messenger. This campaign gave Hike the needed hike in their consumer base.

Hike also tied up with various brands like Dominos, CCD, Pizza Hut for discount coupons. This intrigued the actual customers and brought potential customers on board. With all these creative marketing strategies, Hike gained a base of 15 million loyal customers in just one year of inception.

Hike Messenger - Competitors

Hike Messenger competes with messaging platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat, Signal, Viber, and Telegram. All these platforms have a great market standing and each has its own set of user bases. Though Hike provides a unique kind of interface, it still faces cut-throat competition from these platforms.


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Hike Messenger - Funding and Investors

Hike has raised over $261M in funding over 7 rounds. Their last funding was raised on Aug 24, 2021 from a Venture round led by Justin Mateen and Sean Rad. The round further saw participation from Kunal Shah, Binny Bansal, Softbank Vision Fund CEO Rajeev Mishra and others. Hike hasn't disclosed the amount yet. After this, Hike recently received an undisclosed amount of funding from Jump Crypto, Tribe Capital and Republic Crypto, which came on May 6, 2022, and is reported to be utilised for its web3 gaming platform, Rush Gaming Universe (RGU). Developing RGU's product strategy and hiring new talents across verticals would be the sole aim of the funding that Hike received via this Venture round.  

The recent funds, according to the company, will be utilized to hire skilled employees across a wide range of sectors in order to improve the product strategy of Hike.

Date Stage Amount Investors
May 6, 2022 Venture Round - -
August 24 2021 Corporate Round - Sean Rad, Justin Mateen
August 16, 2016 Series D $175M Foxconn Technology Group, Tencent Holdings
January 11, 2016 Venture Round - -
August 26, 2014 Series C $65M Tiger Global Management
March 31, 2014 Series B $14M Bharti Soft Bank
April 25, 2013 Series A $7M Bharti Soft Bank

Hike was launched in 2012 and soon after in the next year they raised $7 million from Bharti, SoftBank and others. This funding went straight into launching the most popular USP of the app - STICKERS to increase their customer engagement. In March 2014, Hike raised $14 Million from Bharti SoftBank, and put this money into more innovative features on the application, soon Hike crossed the 20 Million user mark. In August 2014, Hike again raised $65 Million from Tiger Global.

In January 2016, Hike raised an undisclosed amount in a venture round. Again, in August 2016, Hike raised around $175 million led by Tencent and Foxconn Technology Group in a Series D round. With this latest round of funding, the startup was valued at $1.4 billion and achieved the “unicorn” status. However, its valuation decreased eventually and it lost its unicorn valuation.


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Hike Messenger - Growth and Revenue

  • In just one year of its launch, Hike was rated #1 App on Android Playstore, iOS Appstore, and Windows Store and had a customer base of 15 million.
  • In 7 years, more than 35 million user base out of which 60% of the base is in India and the rest is in Germany, the Middle East, and other countries around the globe.

The Hike Messenger revenues dropped significantly in FY20, which was valued at Rs 11.9 cr lately in FY20. Along with its revenues, the company also witnessed a decline of its operational income, expenses and losses throughout the years.

Hike Operational Revenue Decline

Years Hike Operational Revenue
FY20 Rs 13K
FY19 Rs 3.5 lakhs
FY18 Rs 51 lakhs

Hike Expenses Decline

Hike's expenses and losses also dropped. However, this was rather due to the decline of its operations rather than its business growth. The company's total expenses were noted to be Rs 193 crore in FY20, which is 16% and 56% lower than the previous years, FY19, FY18 respectively. The losses of Hike also declined at the rate of 12% YOY.

Years Hike Expenses
FY20 Rs 193 cr
FY19 Rs 232 cr
FY18 Rs 439.2 cr

Hike Losses Decline

Years Hike Losses
FY20 Rs 181 cr
FY19 Rs 205.8 cr
FY18 Rs 399.5 cr

The company spent around Rs 193 cr in FY20, which was 16% lower that what it expended in FY19, and around 56% lower than what it spent in FY18.  

Hike Expenses Breakdown

Hike Expenses Verticals FY20 FY19
Employee benefits Rs 81.7 cr Rs 109.3 cr
Server cost Rs 31.8 cr Rs 33.6 cr
Marketing expenses Rs 23.4 cr Rs 24.1 cr
In app costs Rs 6.6 cr Rs 4 cr
Facility expenses Rs 4.3 cr Rs 4.7 cr
Video usage expenses Rs 5.3 cr Rs 7.5 cr

The most interesting fact is that Hike was once valued at around $1.4 bn, and was also known as one of the fastest growing unicorn then, while it failed to generate any operational revenues back then.  


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Hike Messenger - Acquisitions and Investments

Hike has acquired 3 organizations - CREO, InstaLively, and Thought Mechanics.

Their most recent acquisition was CREO on Aug 11, 2017. CREO is on a mission to build software that empowers every device to deliver new experiences every month. Thought Mechanics is a web development company acquired by Hike in January 2015. InstaLively helps broadcast your event Live in just a single click. Hike acquired InstaLively in June 2017.

Acquired Date
January 2015 Thought Mechanics
June 2017 InstaLively
August 2017 CREO

Hike has invested in WinZO on Feb 22, 2019. This investment - Series A - WinZO - was valued at $5M.

Hike Messenger - Future Plans

Hike has officially called its social messenger to quits earlier in 2021 and has not been very active since then. However, the exponential growth that online gaming and the Crypto industry have witnessed has attracted the company, which is now looking to expand on those lines.

Hike has already forayed into the gaming industry by launching a social app, Vibe, and Rush, an online gaming app.  The company is now looking to start its journey with cryptocurrency by offering crypto operations and services.

Hike rolled out the NFT avatars on February 28, 2022, with an eye on its blockchain gaming universe. It upped the game with Rush Avatar, which will be an NFT and digital identity for the users.

Kavin Bharti Mittal, Founder & CEO, Hike said, “With the Rush Avatar NFT, players will now own their digital identity in the RGU. This launch brings the Rush Gaming Universe on-chain and with it we plant the seeds to build a new game economy where consumers are owners.”

Monetisation is what the Hike platform is currently looking eagerly at. With the launch of Rush, Hike has already seeing the gaming experience gradually meeting its success. However, it will be interesting to note how Hike capitalists gaming boom and would earn its revenues ahead.  

FAQs

What is Hike's origin country?

Hike is a messaging app that originated in India, and was founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal.

Is Hike a Chinese app?

No, Hike is an Indian app.

Who is Hike Indian messenger app founder?

Kavin Bharti Mittal is the founder and CEO of Indian instant messaging app Hike, and also the son of business tycoon Bharti Mittal.

Who are the Hike investors?

Hike is mainly funded by investors Foxconn Technology Group, Tencent Holdings, Tiger Global Management, and Bharti Soft Bank.

What is Hike Timeline?

Timeline is an awesome hike feature where you can post photos and status updates.

What are Hike Rewards?

  1. Hike Rewards helps you expand your network on Hike. Invite your friends using exclusive invites offered by Hike and earn rewards by sending and receiving stickers to your friends.
  2. Earn points and redeem them for exclusive rewards and recharges.

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