Of Kavin Mittal, startups and Chinese IT giants

  • Suveen Sinha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 18, 2016 12:54 IST
The wisest thing Kavin Bharti Mittal did was not to follow in his father’s footsteps. He set up his own firm, Hike Messenger, which has a mobile messaging app. (HT Archive)

It’s not easy to be the son of a famous father. In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Albus carries the burden of being Harry’s son with crumbling self esteem and rising belligerence.

If Abhishek Bachchan or Rohan Gavaskar were to watch the play or read the book, they will empathise. Although neither can be said to have crumbled, both have had to endure constant comparisons with Amitabh Bachchan and Sunil Gavaskar.

Sunil Mittal has taken Bharti from a bicycle parts firm to a multi-billion, multi-business, multicountry giant. His son, Kavin, therefore often faces comparisons with the father.

The wisest thing Kavin did was not to follow in his father’s footsteps (Abhishek and Rohan, please take note). He set up his own firm, Hike Messenger, which has a mobile messaging app.

Hike did well, but questions remained over Kavin, since one of his three main investors is his father’s company. The other two are SoftBank and Tiger Global.

On Tuesday, Kavin, more decidedly than ever before, stepped out of his father’s shadow. It has three messages.


Hike has raised $175 million at a valuation of $1.4 billion. It is India’s newest unicorn — startups valued at over $1 billion.

The corporate communication and investor relations departments at Bharti were flummoxed by HT’s question on Tuesday: when did Mittal Sr’s company first reach a valuation of $1 billion? They are not to be blamed: funding in a privately held company in those days was not the subject of the analysis it is now.

And, of course, two Chinese giants have shown their belief in Hike, companies that have nothing to do with Sunil Mittal.


In this round of funding for Hike, the lead investors are Tencent and Foxconn. Tencent is the Chinese giant that owns WeChat, which competes with Hike. Foxconn, owned by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou, has become a multi-billion corporation by assembling iPhones.

This is the second case of a Chinese new-age giant hedging its bets in India. Recently, Didi Chuxing invested in Ola, just before getting into bed with Uber.


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 — important in a country where your phone can be easily picked up by a family member. It has pursued localisation with zeal — it is available in seven languages and has stickers in 40.

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.

Clearly, its success has something to do with its Indian-ness, and a revenue model. There is funding available for startups that get it right.

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