Hike expands to verticals beyond messaging and stickers with 'short form news'
Hike Messenger, today announced the launch of 'hike 4.0', aimed at redefining the consumer experience in the instant messaging space. The latest release is available for Android users on the Google Play Store today and will be available to Apple users on the iOS platform next week.
Hike messenger was founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal and was globally launched in 2012. In April 2013, they hit their first 5M user milestone and had raised $7M in funding. Then in April 2014, they received $14M in fresh funding from BSB and crossed the 20M user mark in June 2014. Then a month after achieving the #1 rank on Android and iOS platforms, they crossed the 35M user mark in August 2014 and received $65M in funding led by Tiger Global. Post that from November 2014 to February 2015 they launched features such as regional stickers, free VoIP calls and cricket scores on Hike in partnership with CricBuzz.
Hike claims that the version 4.0 is 5x faster than its predecessor and is designed for the 'next billion' Indian consumers, who are experiencing Internet for the first time. They claim to have optimized the new update for low-end phones and poor network conditions. To add to the mass appeal, they have introduced about 10 new features, including 'short form news' updates within the app, group chat for up to 500 people among other features.
What's new in Hike?
The latest release includes ‘Sticker Suggestions’, that recommends stickers to users as they type allowing them to express themselves through a catalogue of about 5000 stickers available on the platform. Hike now also allows up to 500 members in a single group chat and has introduced the ability to have multiple admins in a group to make managing groups better and easier for larger groups of people. Regarding sticker suggestions and groups, Kavin told YourStory,
We took our most popular feature and amplified it to the next level. It is so much easier now to use stickers as the suggestions are contextual to what you're typing. Multiple group admins is something users have asked for and this is especially powerful in a large group so we also bumped up our group size to 500 members. Now any big group whether it be alumnis, forums etc can come on to hike and manage their groups in a much better way.
In addition to gearing up for 4G, hike has introduced the ability to transfer files in the form of documents, PDF, zip and all other kinds of files up to a 100 MB limit. They have also launched photo filters and doodles to allow consumers to have fun and spice up their photos. About the thought process behind these features, Kavin added,
In a mobile-first market like India where people are going to be witnessing photo sharing for the first time especially with low-end phones, we wanted to provide a set of tools to allow them to make their photos look better and have a bit of fun. That's the idea behind photo filters and doodles. We've got really cool local filters like Sholay!
The biggest update from YourStory's point of view is a 'Short form news' feature that Hike has launched within their app. The service allows users on the platform to get quick bite-sized news updates in under a 100 characters. Within 24 hours of the launch of ‘News’, hike claims to have over a million people actively using the service currently. About the news feature, Kavin added,
We aggregate news content from the top news publications and blogs across India. We parse through over a thousand stories every day and using some smarts ensure that the most relevant, timely content is delivered to users multiple times during the day in a bit-sized format.
Kavin sees the demand for quick, bite-sized news updates on smartphones to be quite large over the course of a day, and considers it an ideal choice for people living in a mobile-first world. He added, "Approximately 100 stories are published every day but we're careful not to bombard people with everything. You'll see no more than three-four notifications throughout the day showing news articles that are extremely popular."
Inshorts, that had raised $20M from Tiger Global (Tiger Global is also an investor in Hike) and Way2News which is backed by Way2SMS are standalone apps in the 'short form news' space in India. Circa which was one of the pioneers of short form content globally, went on an ‘indefinite hiatus’ earlier this year as they were unable to crack their business model. Some smaller players in this space are Cruxtor, which summarises news in a timeline format and Awesummly, which automates news summaries. About the competition in the news space, Kavin said,
It's too early to comment. At the end of the day as Hike we want to build the best experience for our users. I wouldn't rule out a possible partnership in the future.
Hike Messenger, also announced that it’s users now exchange about 20 billion messages on a monthly basis. They claim that the number has doubled in less than a year since the company’s previous announcement of 10 billion monthly messaging volume in August 2014. The app also includes a free virtual assistant codenamed 'Natasha' and a 'Hidden Mode' that allows users to hide all the chats that they want to keep private with a password.Commenting on the launch and their future plans, Kavin said, “We’re excited to bring Hike 4.0 to the market. It’s been six months in the making and it’s a big update from it’s predecessors. We've got a lot more coming. Expect us to release one big new feature on top of this every month until the end of the year."
The mobile app space has seen a lot of activity around the world and India. Messaging apps have been the most 'sticky' apps retaining a large section of users and constantly topping the Android and iOS Playstores. Globally, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger together have the largest user base when it comes to instant messaging. WeChat, Line, and Kakao Talk are big players in Asia. Andreessen Horowitz recently wrote an article about WeChat and their 'App within an app' strategy and how one app is ruling everything in China. Globally other big players in the messaging sector are SnapChat and Telegram (which allows users to send files up to 1GB). It will be interesting to see how Hike goes about with its strategy in India and what their future plans and updates include.