Fittingly for someone who did his first internship with McLaren racing, Kavin Mittal’s start-up, Hike Messenger, has raced to a $1.4 billion valuation within three years of inception. That makes it India’s newest unicorn, the term used for startups valued at more than $1 billion.
Just as interesting, the round of $175 million — very large considering that funding has slowed for India’s startups —was led by Tencent and Foxconn.
Tencent is the Chinese giant that owns WeChat, which competes with Hike, but has not been able to become much popular in India. Foxconn, owned by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou, has become a multi-billion corporation by assembling iPhones for Apple. Hike’s exiting investors – Bharti, controlled by Mittal’s father Sunil, SoftBank, and Tiger Global — also pumped in more money.
Hike is a free messaging app that works both online and offline, and makes its money from services that ride its messages. It has a feature that lets users hide their messages, and has pursued localisation with zeal – it is available in seven languages and has stickers in 40.
“Ours is a messaging app born for India’s young internet generation, whose need for privacy is even more because in many families, a single device is shared between members,” Mittal, 28, said. “The new fund raise is going to allow us to invest in areas that will be key to our long-term vision and success.”
Hike boasts 100 million downloads, making it the second-most popular messaging app in India after WhatsApp and the world’s sixth largest. The others ahead of it globally are QQ Chat, FB Messenger, WeChat, and Line.