Kavin Mittal redraws game plan, to unbundle Hike

Thomas K Thomas Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on January 10, 2019

Kavin Mittal, Founder and CEO, Hike Messenger   -  PTI

From one super app for youth, the company is looking at a wider market with multiple apps

Six years after launching home grown messaging application Hike, Kavin Mittal is shifting gears to roll out multiple applications by unbundling content and services to new platforms. Hike, with over 150 million users, is currently a super application that offers messaging at its core but also has video content, news and other services bundled within it. Under the new game plan, Hike will be focussed entirely as a messaging platform while other services will be rolled out into separate applications.

Explaining the thought behind the change in strategy, Mittal told BusinessLine that the move is aimed at cashing in on the growing number of data users and widening the existing user base for the company. “For the first time, we are moving from a company that has one app- a super app- that encompasses everything- messaging, news, cricket scores and a bunch of other stuff, to unbundling the application into multiple, individual apps,” Mittal said.

In 2012, when Mittal launched Hike, the mobile data market was very small. There were barely a few million mobile data users, that too on 2G and low-end smartphones. Over the last couple of years, the market has shifted from 2G and low-end smartphones, where people had trouble using a few apps on their smartphones, to a world of 4G and good smartphones.

“Today India, for the most part, doesn’t have an app problem. People are very comfortable downloading tens of apps on their phones. As the market has evolved, we too must evolve our approach at Hike,”Mittal added.

Mittal believes that with a multi-application business he can serve customers better by having one app dedicated towards one thing. “For us, our metrics are how much time does the user spend on the application and to deliver high quality experience where people can engage and spend more time. If you have a simple application, you can dedicate more resources towards solving one problem,” Mittal said.

Hike has always been focussed on building an application for the youth with the target market of 18-24 year-olds. Moving to a multi-app strategy will allow Mittal to go beyond this market. “The market has grown so tremendously and a significant portion of the growth has come from an older demographic that Hike was previously not targeting,”Mittal said.

Over the course of the next six months Mittal plans to take core parts of the Hike product and spin them up into brand new apps. Pilot tests of some of these new applications are already running.

Globally, many large players have attempted to unbundle services into multiple applications and not all of them have succeeded. One of the biggest challenge is that users generally do not keep more than one or two applications of a specific category. So Mittal will have to ensure that the new applications become one of the preferred services in each category.

Sanchit Vir Gogia, Founder and CEO of Greyhound Research said, “In theory, it sounds like a promising strategy, but a lot will depend on how the execution is done here on. Over the course of the last two years, category leaders have already been established. Be it commerce, be it payments, be it content or be it messaging. In all of these four categories where Hike is likely to play, the category leaders and category followers have already been very well established. So, it’s a hard trajectory that they are looking to go at. And scaling up and being successful in each of these categories is going to be really backbreaking. Hike will have to use a highly differentiated strategy to really capture the growth.”

Lloyd Mathias, strategic investor and former HP and Motorola executive, said that unbundling can help streamline an app and make it more intuitive for users besides allowing the app to create tailored experiences for specific audiences. “However, this ‘divide and rule’ strategy has its downsides. For one there will be a big impact on discovery and conversion. Secondly, multiple apps increase complexity besides raising costs. Apps will do well to remember that proliferation of icons on a mobile device, given the pressures of real estate and demands on battery life, is not really consumer friendly,”Mathias said.

Mittal is aware of these challenges. “We have sizeable distribution on Hike today, we can encourage people, if they choose to, to seamlessly migrate to the new applications giving us a bit of a head start. Once you have these new applications you can really double down and build these experience in a way that it is the best experience in the market. It’s clear that if you get the distribution right, and the product right, this can work extremely well.”

Published on January 09, 2019

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