The Kavin Bharti Mittal-led homegrown chat application, Hike Messenger, on Thursday announced the acquisition of US-based free voice-calling company Zip Phone for an undisclosed amount. This would allow Hike users to make free phone calls.
The introduction of free voice calls using instant messaging by Hike comes at a time when operators are proposing to levy a separate fee for a such service.
The announcement comes within a few weeks after Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel announced plans to introduce tariffs for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber but withdrew after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India announced its decision to come out with a discussion paper on the issue soon.
“We’ve strongly believed that through communication, we can bring India online,” Kavin Mittal said. “With this acquisition we take one more step towards that mission. Zip Phone’s technology will allow us to bring free voice calling to the market much faster.”
This is Hike first acquisition, which is aimed at expanding its product range in the internet-based communication space.
Launched in December 2012, Hike has over 35 million users and has raised $86 million from Tiger Global and BSB till date. Over 90% of Hike’s users are under the age of 25 and residing in India.
Hike competes with other instant messaging applications such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp, China’s Tencent-owned WeChat and Japan’s Line. WhatsApp is the market leader with about 70 million active users.
Zip Phone, a one-man start-up founded by Anuj Jain in the US, is a voice-calling app that works globally. “I had been keeping a close eye on Hike and I am excited to now be a part of it,” Jain said.