Hike Shuts Down Amid WhatsApp Privacy Row; Company To Focus On New Products Founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal in 2012, Hike was placed in the market as an alternative to the popular WhatsApp

By Debarghya Sil

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Kavin Mittal

Set up to offer Indians an indigenious messaging app and compete with the popular Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Hike StickerChat has been shut down and taken off from Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Founded by billionaire-family scion Kavin Bharti Mittal in 2012, Hike had over the years been cashing in as an alternative to WhatsApp, but failed to do so.

The Delhi-based startup which grabbed the eyeballs through its exclusive set of stickers entered the prestigious Unicorn club within four years of inception in 2016.

Backed by the SoftBank group, Hike over the years has tried to offer a range of options such as wallet facility, Hikeland, HikeMoji, multiple likes, themes, cricket scores and horoscope, among others, to grow its user base.

At the onset of this year, Kavin Mittal—son of Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises—in a long thread on Twitter spilled out the upcoming plans for the company. He announced the launch of "Rush', a new gaming service and declared Hikeland, a mobile-first virtual world which was announced last year has been renamed as Vibe. In the end he mentioned that Stickerchat by Hike will be shut and Hikemoji will continue to be available in both Vibe and Rush.

While it is unclear that at a time when India is foraying into homegrown apps, Mittal is putting a stop to its messenger. In the past when several Chinese apps were banned by the government of India due to security reasons, homegrown apps particularly in the short-video space such as Mitron, Chingari and Trell saw their downloads number go through the roof. These apps also raised their first round of fundings after the government's bold move.

Also Read: Whatsapp Postpones the Update of the Privacy Policy Due To the Flight of Users

What is more strange is the fact Hike leaving the game at a time when multiple questions have been raised on WhatsApp's privacy and customers looking for an alternative is unclear. From the time WhatsApp announced its new privacy policy on January 4, people have migrated to an alternate source of messaging such as Telegram and newly heard Signal.

According to Mashable's survey, around 18 per cent of Indians will continue to use WhatsApp and 36 per cent will drastically reduce their usage and 15 per cent to quit the app amidst the ongoing row. While WhatsApp has seen a downtrend in its download numbers, Telegram and Signal are daily onboarding new customers to its platforms.

Though Telegram was advised much before by several renowned people and CEOs for its better privacy policy, Signal has actually stolen the limelight. Several reports have suggested that Signal's downloads number have increased by 4,200 per cent. In a tweet Mittal himself said, "India won't have its own messenger" and reasoned that global network effects are "too strong' unless "India bans western companies'.

He also suggested Telegram's UX is better than Signal and that both are good and are aligned with consumers unlike Facebook products. It can be said that gaining popularity of Signal and Telegram after WhatsApp faced major backlash in India was probably the death knell for the idigenious messaging app.

Debarghya Sil

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Correspondent

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