Hike Raises Funds After 5 Years, To Now Focus On Crypto And Gaming

Hike might not have quite become India’s preeminent messaging app, but it hasn’t thrown in the towel just yet.

Messaging app Hike has raised an undisclosed amount from a clutch of prominent investors including Tinder cofounders Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, SoftBank Vision Fund CEO Rajeev Misra and Tribe Capital cofounder Arjun Sethi. Flipkart cofounder Binny Bansal, Cred founder Kunal Shah, Zeta and Titan cofounder Bhavin Turakhia, Snapdeal cofounders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Kumar Bansal and South Park Commons Partner in Residence Aditya Agarwal also participated in the funding round. Hike had last raised funds all the way back in 2016, and was then looking to build an Indian alternative to WhatsApp.

Hike now says that it’ll use the funds to expand on its product strategy and hire talent across different functions at the intersection of social, gaming, and crypto. Hike currently has a team of over 160 employees across 50 cities.

Hike had been founded in late 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal, the son of Airtel founder and billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal. The company had quickly ramped up operations, raised money, and had even been promoted among Airtel users. In 2016, Hike had become what was then the fastest Indian startup to touch a valuation of $1 billion, reaching the milestone 3.7 years after being founded.

But even as Hike managed to find a cohort of young users through hooks like stickers and private chats, it failed to challenge the network effects of WhatsApp, and never appeared to reach a scale which could make it a mass chat app. In January this year, Hike CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal had seemed to concede defeat, saying that Indian would never have its own messenger. “India won’t have its own messenger. Global network effects are too strong (unless India bans Western companies),” he’d tweeted. Mittal’s prediction seems to have been prescient — even as many users switched to competitors like Signal and Telegram while protesting WhatsApp’s privacy policy update, they have largely failed to make a dent in its userbase and ubiquity.

Hike, though, had kept pivoting over the years, coming up with new products. Hike had launched an invite-only product called Vibe by Hike, which facilitates conversations between people. Hike has another product named Rush by Hike, which offers a series of games to users, including ones like Carrom and Ludo.

It remains how Hike will fare in its new goals of making products at the intersection of social, crypto and gaming, but it seems to have the backing of who’s who of the Indian and global startup ecosystems. It also has the experience of making apps for nearly a decade now, and that should hold it in good stead as it looks to deploy its new funds. But Hike’s struggles with dislodging WhatsApp, and its subsequent move to newer pastures shows that no amount of funding and backing can help overcome the network effects that WhatsApp with its 400 million users now enjoys in India.