Info-tech

Super apps won’t work in India: Kavin Bharti Mittal

Ayushi Kar | Thomas K Thomas Mumbai | Updated on November 06, 2020

KAVIN BHARTI MITTAL, CEO and Founder of Hike

Kavin Bharti Mittal

For a market with good smartphones at low pricepoints and unlimited data, customers can download 80-90 apps on their phones: CEO and founder of Hike

After making significant inroads into instant messaging services, Kavin Bharti Mittal is steering towards his next big bet — a virtual world that allows users to connect with friends and other users. Called HikeLand, the mobile-only platform takes the user experience beyond just text messaging or sharing emojis. In the early preview version rolled out in June, users can connect with other users to watch online videos together from their respective locations. Now, it has introduced ad-free Ludo for users within HikeLand. Apart from this, it will also be rolling out full-body HikeMoji, an extension of the HikeMoji face. BusinessLine spoke to Mittal about HikeLand and how he sees the app ecosystem developing in India. Excerpts.

How has been the response to HikeLand so far?

It has been fantastic to see the engagement on the platform. People are spending 50 minutes per day and that is pretty high engagement. What is exciting for us to see is that the demand for shared experiences is big. Given that people are spending more time in their home, they are yearning for these experiences. So, we are launching games inside the Hikeland home, as a way for people to hang out. We are very excited about bringing Ludo to Hikeland home

How does 50 minutes per day compare to the usage earlier?

In our history, the average time spend has been no more than 25-35 minutes per day. Now we are looking at 50 minutes per day for the Hikeland user. So that tells us that the engagement of the product is off the charts.

You had earlier partnered with Youtube for enabling streaming video on HikeLand. Are you talking to others like Netflix and Amazon?

We are working on it. We prioritise ludo above that because we believe users want more interactive ways of hanging out. The main experience we have at home is watch videos together. But we are not gonna watch videos every day. So we said why don’t we launch ludo. It is more about giving users diversity..of experiences inside the HikeLand home. We have already watched streaming and it does really well.. Lets see the game, lets see how it does and so we move on both there is tracks forward as time progresses.

We are also seeing big tech companies enter into the field of immersive reality and virtual reality. How does HikeLand compete with these giants?

VR is a very different consumption channel for the end consumer...and VR is more akin to consoles while we are in mobile phones. And VR device penetration in the world is very small. In India, you have half-a-billion consumers that are on the smartphone-that have access to unfettered data. Do we think about VR at all as a part of our plan? We just don’t think it is an India way at all. We just think it is a western play and a very niche western play that is slowly moving to AR. Your point of these companies having a lot of distribution...sure..which is why we have to innovate more and build something that is completely different from what exists today.. Which is what we are doing with Hikeland. We are trying to carve out a niche for ourselves.

You have shifted away from being a superapp to creating separate apps. But we are seeing a trend emerging in India where companies like Tata group, Reliance and PayTM seem to be betting on super app platform. How do you see this different approach?

I would like to see them execute on this. I can tell you that this is not gonna work. For a market that has such good smartphones at low pricepoints, data that is practically unlimited, customers can download 80-90 apps on their phones. The super app is not what customers want, customers want the best user experience. Now, businesses would absolutely love a super app as they can pack in more things into an application and the distribution is there, so customers can use more of their services. It is always a business first mentality when people want to build a super app as they want to control all the customers. But customers don’t necessarily want that. And you see a market like India what is the big super app that exists? China is the exception, by the way, where most apps look like super apps. Its not a customer first strategy. So far we have not seen a super app model sustain itself here in India. Could that change in 4-5 years from now? Let see.

How are you doing on the monetisation front?

We have revenue experiments ongoing for some time but nothing headline worthy just yet. I think we will have something by the end of the year or early next year. But it is something we will focus inside the company. It has become very clear to us that people have the propensity to pay online if it is micro transactions. The question is what is it that millions of people will pay for online. And so we are excited and hopefully soon we will have some more to talk about. We are more focused on the social and gaming spaces. We will have multiple products in these spaces that will have 30-50 million users. Can we monetise these users at a dollar per user a month? I think so.

 

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Published on November 06, 2020

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