Kavin Mittal’s next big idea: Keyboard-less messaging

Aastha Vijaywargiya /Thomas K Thomas | Updated on April 16, 2019

Kavin Mittal, founder-CEO, Hike

Launches new chat platform, Hike Sticker Chat

If Kavin Mittal has his way, users of instant messaging will be able to send text messages without typing a single word on the keyboard, in the next few years. Keyboard-less ‘texting’ using machine learning to do predictive messaging is Mittal’s next big moon-shot idea.

“Using machine learning, we can build capabilities to make 80-90 per cent of the chat without using a keyboard. Our dream is to get to 100 per cent where users can communicate by only using predictive sticker-based messaging to start with, and then we can move to actual texts,” Mittal, founder-CEO, Hike, told BusinessLine. A sticker is a detailed illustration of a character that represents an emotion or action and often combined with text.

As an initial step, Mittal has launched a new application called Hike Sticker Chat. The new platform allows users to communicate by sending predictive sticker-based messages generated through machine learning. The app seamlessly tailors itself around each user’s tastes to make communication really simple by bringing the right sticker at the right time.

“In a diverse landscape like India where dialects change every few kilometres, keyboards aren’t well-equipped. Hence, new-age Indian internet users are looking for a seamless way to communicate. With this launch, we’re taking a big step to solve that gap by reducing people’s dependency on the keyboard,” Mittal added.

The new app is part of Mittal’s strategy to unbundle the already existing Hike Messenger app. In January, Mittal had announced plans to shift gears to roll out multiple applications by unbundling content and services to new platforms. Hike, with over 150 million users, was until now 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 Sticker Chat will be focussed entirely as a messaging platform while other services in the existing Hike app will be rolled out into separate applications.

“We plan to keep the existing Hike app in operation for a while so that users have a choice. But we are actively migrating users who want uncluttered messaging experience to the new Hike Sticker Chat. We are adding about 50,000 users on the new platform each day while we were in beta,” Kavin said.

Hike Sticker Chat currently has about 30,000 stickers in 40+ Indian languages and dialects. It will have over 1 lakh stickers across languages by the end of the year. “With the current number of stickers, we can only enable about 20-30 per cent of the conversation without keyboard. We will add a couple of hundred-thousand stickers by the end of the year, which will make it 70-80 per cent. We are also working on allowing users to generate their own stickers going forward. That will make it even more less dependent on keyboards.”

Published on April 16, 2019

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