India’s answer to WhatsApp has completely moved on from messaging.
Hike Messenger, backed by Tencent, Tiger Global, and SoftBank and valued at $1.4 billion in 2016, announced that it was shutting down StickerChat, its messaging app. (StickerChat users saw notifications about it late last week.) The startup, founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal, pivoted to two virtual social apps called Vibe and Rush, said Mittal, the son of telecom giant Airtel’s chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal.
In a series of tweets earlier this month, Kavin said that India would never have a homegrown messenger that makes inroads in the world’s second-largest market unless it chooses to ban Western companies from operating in the nation. “Global network effects are too strong,” he said. WhatsApp has amassed over 450 million users in India, its biggest market by users. Mittal described opportunities in building virtual worlds as a “much better approach for today’s world that is unconstrained by cheap, fast data and powerful smartphones.
The end of Hike’s messenger service comes at a time when Signal and Telegram have added tens of millions of users in recent weeks. A planned update to WhatsApp’s data-sharing policy has prompted many loyal fans to explore alternatives this month. “Both [Telegram and Signal] are very good. As entities, they have the right incentives (more aligned with consumers), unlike Facebook products, tweeted Mittal earlier this month.
In recent years, Hike made bets on stickers and emojis to cater to the younger population in India. In a meeting with TechCrunch in late 2019, Mittal said that the startup was overwhelmed with the engagement stickers on its platform and was working on automating the development of personalized stickers.