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Lo And Behold, We Have A New Unicorn In Town Another one joins the unicorn club.

By Ritu Kochar

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Marking the 10th Indian unicorn, Hike Messenger joined the unicorn club after having raised a whooping $175 million. The Series D funding round was led by Tencent Holdings and Foxconn Technology, along with existing investors – Softbank, Bharti and Tiger Global, giving this startup an entry into the million dollar valuation club.

Raising its fourth and biggest venture capital round, Kavin Bharti Mittal's Hike Messenger is now valued close to $ 1.4 billion with a total investment of over $250 million so far. Enjoying the good times, Kavin said, "Tencent and Foxconn both have pedigrees that speak for themselves and such an investment, especially in today's market, just goes to show the strong foundation on which Hike is built."

"I'm also equally excited to have our existing shareholders Tiger, SoftBank, and Bharti, follow in this round, and continue to show their strong support in our longterm vision," he added.

Hike was launched in 2012 and after receiving an investment of $7 million from Bharti SoftBank in April 2013, the app was able to gather quite a following with 15 million users by February 2014. By raising another $65 million funding led by Tiger Global, Hike invested extensively in the application and introduced free text messaging anywhere in India, chat themes, updated stickers, hidden chats and revamped user interface. The effect was so that their user base reached hit 35 million August 2014. By October 2015, they claim to have 70 million users on their platform with 20 billion messages being shared each month.

Commenting on Hike's growth over the years, Masayoshi Son, Founder and CEO of SoftBank Group (also the longest standing investor in Hike) said, "Hike is one of SoftBank's best performing portfolio companies in India and we are happy to have stayed invested in it from the beginning. The team has reached an outstanding scale in a short span of 3.5 years. As an investor, we share their vision and are happy that they are moving ahead in their journey so quickly in a competitive environment."

Although the numbers look real nice for Hike, they are strongly overshadowed by the numbers WhatsApp has under its umbrella. The popular messaging app, launched in 2009, has about 100 million active users in India. This means that our homegrown messaging app is being outnumbered by the California-based messaging app, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014.

To attract native customers, Hike is going local with over 10,000 stickers available in 40 languages. Also, knowing that a large chunk of people do not have access to the internet, they have also introduced services such as Hike2SMS that helps send free messages when there's no internet connectivity, and Hike Direct that lets you share files without the internet.

Praising what Hike is doing for common people, Tencent president Martin Lau said, "Hike deeply understands India; a highly diverse market with many nuances. It is on a mission synergistic to ours, which is to enhance the quality of human life through internet services. With our investment, Hike will be able to leverage our deep domain expertise in the messaging platform space to provide more value to its users in India."

Also, to break the monopoly WhatsApp has over the messaging app market, Hike will be using its precious funding to invest in services, people and office space, but also AI, machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality.

"The new fund-raise is going to allow us to push Hike to greater heights. and invest in areas that will be key to our long-term vision and success," Mittal said stating his plans.

Entering the unicorn clan, Hike is now with the biggies of Indian startup ecosystem, which includes Flipkart, Snapdeal, ShopClues, Mu Sigma Inc, InMobi Technologies, Paytm, Zomato, Ola, and lastly Quikr.

Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.
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