India’s response to WhatsApp has completely shifted from messaging.
Hike Messenger, backed by Tencent, Tiger Global and SoftBank and valued at $ 1.4 billion in 2016, announced earlier this month that it was shutting down Sticker Chat, its messaging app.
The startup, founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal, this month moved towards two virtual social apps called Vibe and Rush, said Mittal, who is the son of the chairman of telecommunications giant Airtel, Sunil Bharti Mittal.
In a series of tweets earlier this month, Kavin said India will never have a local messenger breaking into the world’s second-largest market unless it chooses to ban Western companies from operate in the country. “The global network effects are too strong,” he said. WhatsApp has gathered more than 450 million users in India, its largest user market.
Mittal described the opportunities for creating virtual worlds as a “much better approach for today’s world that is not constrained by fast, cheap data and powerful smartphones.
In recent years, Hike has been betting on stickers and emojis to meet the needs of young people in India. In a meeting with TechCrunch at the end of 2019, Mittal said the startup was overwhelmed by engagement stickers on its platform and was working to automate the development of custom stickers.
At a different meeting last year, Mittal featured emojis that mimicked human expressions and a virtual hangout called HikeLand. Vibe is the rebranded version of HikeLand and emojis developed by Hike will continue to be available to users on the two most recent apps, Mittal said earlier this month.
Hike, who has raised more than $ 260 million to date, had enough lead last year, said Mittal, who hinted that the startup could raise more capital a year later.
Hike also attempted to create his own operating system by acquiring a startup called Creo. In 2018, Hike launched Total OS which aimed to meet the needs of users of low cost Android smartphones and slow internet data.
The startup then stopped the project. Mittal told TechCrunch that the arrival of Reliance Jio, which prompted Airtel and Vodafone to reduce the price of mobile data on their networks, solved data problems in the country and that Total OS was no longer needed on the market.