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On Bharti Softbank’s Third Venture: A Messaging App Called Hike

A few days after it released a teaser, BSB, the joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Softbank (Japan), has shared more details on what its third initiative in India, an application called Hike, is about:

– Messaging App using both data and SMS: It appears to be a peer to peer (p2p) messaging application which uses both data and SMS to deliver messages. It appears that data will be used for messaging between users who are on Hike, and SMS will be used in case the receiver is not on Hike. Users who are not on Hike will probably be asked to sign up, which is what most messaging apps do. For example:Affle’s Pinch does this.

– Free SMS: Hike recently received an approval from the TRAI for more than 100 messages per day per SIM, even before its launch. The app is is offering users 100 free SMS’ per month, and as a carrot for bringing more and more users to the app, is offering 10 SMS per user brought in.

– SMS Spam blocking: as an added incentive, Hike also appears to be looking to address the issue of SMS Spam which plagues much of the Indian market, saying that it has filters which will block SMS spam, and learn to block spam with time.

More here.

Our Take

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While not much else is available on the application, a few initial thoughts on BSB’s entry into this market:

– Crowded, but there’s room for growth: SMS and text messaging is on the decline, and right now, it’s almost as if there’s a land-grab of subscribers for data messaging apps in progress. Tencent launched WeChat in India last month, and other apps include Nimbuzz, as well as WhatsAppRockeTalkebuddyim+Viber and kik, among others. That said, not enough Indians are using data, so there is room for growth, and BSB’s messaging application will help get more users on data, just like other apps are.

– On Free SMS: It’s an interesting marketing ploy, but note 100 free SMS can be upstaged by a 200 free SMS, which can be upstaged by a 200 free SMS offer, and so on. Anyone willing to do unlimited?

– Relationship with Telcos: With the growth of data services in India, SMS  is declining in India (read why), and while a decline in SMS revenues doesn’t serve Airtel or other telcos, realistically, it’s a trend that is unlikely to be reversed. More users on data will help the telcos. Hike will need more than an organic push, since it’s entering the market rather late.

– Replace native messaging app? one of the things that Affle got right with its SMS 2.0 application when it launched many years ago, is that it replaced the native application for Nokia handsets. Hike would do well to try and become the default messaging application. The other thing that Affle got right: they partnered with Airtel, which promoted them extensively, and which was probably responsible for most of its user base.

– Symbian? Yes, Symbian is declining, but it’s not that there isn’t a large enough market there. Hike would do well to try and build user loyalty by going beyond early adopters on smartphone devices. On Twitter, they mentioned that they’re starting with Android and the website mentions WP7 and iOS. Then again, it’s perhaps not worth the pain of developing for Symbian anymore. What do you think?

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– SMS Spam blocking as a feature: this is a great feature, and something which other applications might want to emulate. We wonder what this means for services like SMSBlocker, that their entire product is being converted into a feature in a messaging app. It might boil down to who blocks best, or users might keep more than one app for blocking. Come to think of it, given that SMSBlocker has an installed user base, there is potential for it to become another contender in the messaging apps space. Either that or SMSBlocker could consider a new business model – its spam detection database could power this feature for other messaging apps.


Other BSB initiatives include mobile based deals business Hoppr, in which it has a significant minority stake (49.74% for Rs 22.25 crore), and a portal joint venture with Yahoo Japan.

Note: The app isn’t available for download yet, and these views are on the basis of information provided on the BSB website.

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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