Hike Messenger raises $175 mn from investors led by Tencent

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Home-grown messaging platform Hike Messenger on Tuesday said it had raised $175 million (about Rs.1,169 crore) in a new round of funding led by Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings and Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan, valuing the company at about $1.4 billion.

This is the fourth venture capital round and the biggest to date for Hike, taking the total investment to over $250 million so far.

Existing investors — Tiger, Bharti and SoftBank Group also participated in this round.

“We will use these funds to invest in services, people, office space and some-long term bets in areas of machine learning, computer vision, augmented and virtual reality features. The funding gives us ammo to make long-term bets. We are here to stay,” the company’s Founder and CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal told The Hindu.

Currently, Facebook-owned Whatsapp is pegged to be the dominant messaging platform in the country. Other such apps include WeChat – which is owned by Tencent – Line and Facebook Messenger.

Not zero-sum

Asked about the competition, Mr. Mittal said, “We have faced competition since we started…For us to win, does not mean that they (other messaging apps) have to lose. The applications can co-exist. People use multiple messaging apps on their phones.”

He added that the current focus for the company remains the home market. “We do have global aspirations but not right now. A lot is happening in India…we will focus on India which is a huge market,” he said.

In January 2016, Hike had announced it had a base of 100 million users. According to the company, as many as 95 per cent of its users are based in India and 90 per cent of them are young and below the age of 30 years. Hike users, on an average, exchange 40 billion messages per month and spend 120 minutes per user per week on the platform, the company said.

Domain expertise

Tencent President Martin Lau said with this investment, Hike will leverage the Chinese giant’s domain expertise in the messaging platform space to provide more value to its users in India.

Hike was founded by Mr. Kavin Mittal, son of telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal, in December 2012 and received a funding of $7 million and $14 million from Bharti Softbank in April 2013 and March 2014, respectively. In August 2014, the Indian messaging firm got investment of $65 million led by Tiger Global.

Talking about Foxconn’s investment in Hike, FIH Mobile CEO, Calvin Chih, said, “Messaging platforms are where consumers and their social networks reside and represent significant investment potential, particularly in a market like India, where most people will access the Internet for the first time on their mobile phones.”

Masayoshi Son, Founder, Chairman and CEO, SoftBank Group, 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.”