You may be forgiven for dismissing Kavin Bharti Mittal as just another son of a business tycoon with too much money. However, reading further into Kavin’s story reveals that he has inherited more than Sunil Mittal’s surname and millions – he has the same business acumen, drive, and ambition as his father. As the adage goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That is the story of Kavin Bharti Mittal, Founder and CEO of Hike Messenger and the son of telecommunication tycoon Sunil Mittal.
Kavin’s journey so far reflects a lifetime spent in the presence of one of India’s most successful businessmen. His entrepreneurial potential was on display when he was as young as 20 and still pursuing his Master’s at Imperial College, London. AppSpark, MoviesNow, and Foodster were his early creations before he struck gold with Hike, an instant messaging service.
Today, Kavin is at the helm of a unicorn startup (valued at $1.4 billion) which grew to 100 million users within three short years. Launched on December 12, 2012, Hike is a joint venture between SoftBank and Bharti Enterprise and has major investors of the likes of SoftBank, Tiger Global, Tencent, Foxconn, and a few big names from Silicon Valley.
A young, brave, and enterprising businessman, Kavin has managed to come out of his father’s shadow and make his own mark. Here are a few quotes from Kavin that will help other young entrepreneurs who too harbour big dreams:
Realising that the Indian subcontinent is rife with opportunities for internet- and mobile-driven technology, Kavin wound up his ventures abroad and set sail for the Indian ecosystem in 2011. Though things started off well, it wasn’t always easy sailing for Kavin. But thanks to his early start in entrepreneurship, the young entrepreneur realised that the market would eventually mature, and aspiring entrepreneurs who have unique solutions to offer will find growing demand for solutions to the problems that plague the country. It’s a lesson worth keeping in mind – you don’t have to go to Silicon Valley to build a large, successful startup; there is plenty of demand and growth opportunity right here in India.
“There is a lot of herd mentality and less focus on being different and independent. This is why many companies are going to fail. But the correction is happening and I believe the good ones are here to stay.”
“You have to understand that the startup system is just cropping up in India. Give it a few more years and you will see innovation being tailor-made for the country.”
“India has lagged on the internet. But this will change over the next four years.”
With smartphone and internet penetration burgeoning, Kavin realised the Indian consumers’ eagerness to stay connected, and this gave birth to Hike Messenger. As the biggest name in the Indian messaging app scene, Kavin isn’t just content with Hike being an instant messenger but looks to grow it into a one-stop-shop for everything a consumer requires. He realises that we exist in a time where users will reach out to their phones for everything under the sun, and he wants to ensure that Hike expands its horizons and tends to consumers from across the board.
As entrepreneurs, it’s always important to keep one eye on the horizon to keep track of emerging trends and consumer patterns. Understanding market trends is key to ensuring you stay ahead of the curve and keep growing.
“90 percent of Hikers are between the age of 15 and 24. So when we met them, they talked about how many of them do not actively use a bank account. So we also built in wallet-to-wallet transfer inside Hike itself for those people who do not actually actively use bank products.”
“A Hiker spends 24 minutes per day in the app, which is very high engagement. Our best Hikers spend almost 50 minutes per day. People spend about four hours a day on the internet in this country and 50 minutes means one-fourth of your time on the net gets spent on Hike.”
“I’m a big believer that to harness the true potential of a billion people, information access has to free and instant for everybody.”
For most people, it is a source of annoyance, but for Kavin, it was an epiphany. We are talking about the massive Indian population. With an insatiable quest for providing solutions, Kavin’s idea behind Hike was to bring consumers to the internet, and he soon realised that India with its billion-figure population, provided the greatest reservoir of users. His advice to entrepreneurs?
“For a startup to succeed the founders have to solve a need (of consumers or businesses) and people will love the brand. Also, solve this need well and it should impact lives. This is when consumers remember a company for life.”
“Startups are clearly the future of the country and they are changing organizational structures. Companies cannot be built on the premise that founders can make money out of an idea.”
“Building a company is larger than just raising money and cashing out.”
An ardent believer of Zen philosophy, Kavin is someone who gives attention to details, and this was his guiding principle while building Hike as well. His first iPhone in 2007 forced him to change the way he saw the world, since, in his words, “So much is possible now with this small little device.” Along with this came the realization that the supporting services and apps could change the entire landscape of communication. Kavin believes in adopting a harmonious, balanced, and ‘zen’ outlook to his entrepreneurship career, and recommends all entrepreneurs follow it too.
“The one thing that I have learnt is that people tend to fall into this trap of leading their lives like it is a glass half-empty. And they are never satisfied with what they have. It is important to have the glass-half-full perspective and to be grateful every step of the way. It is very subtle, but it’s had a big impact on my thinking and how I approach work and life.”
“There is a book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. It is a light read on Zen Buddhism. It has really shaped the way I think about work and life.”
For someone who was handed over a silver spoon, Kavin could have stayed content with his lot in life. However, he had bigger ambitions in mind for his own empire, which he built on the back of his determination and talent. Kavin’s story proves that it isn’t just about the funding you receive but about relentlessly chasing your own aspirations. Kavin Bharti Mittal is an embodiment of entrepreneurial spirit, and someone budding entrepreneurs can definitely learn a thing or two from.