Hike Messenger is reportedly laying off 20-25% of its workforce, with a significant portion of the affected employees coming from its two recent acquisitions hardware maker Creo and social networking venture InstaLively. The Economic Times reported that the total number of pink slips could range between 50 and 75 employees across locations.
Hike Messenger spokesperson confirmed the layoffs to ET but did not provide exact numbers. “We made a few acquisitions last year that skyrocketed the team size, mostly in Bangalore. We’re integrating and streamlining these teams. Just business as usual,” a company spokesperson told ET.
Hike had acquired two startups – InstaLively and Creo last year. The companies were acquired in June and August last year. InstaLively, a platform which enables live video broadcast and was focussed on offering the functionality on low 3G bandwidths through their mobile app. Meanwhile, Hike had acquired Creo for an undisclosed amount primarily for technology IP and talents. This was reported as an acqui-hire. Bengaluru-based Crea had developed an HDMI media streaming dongle – Teewee which in terms of form factor and functionality was similar to an Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecast.
Hike Messenger is run by Kavin Mittal, the son of Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. Hike is also a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Softbank.
Competing with WhatsApp
Hike Messenger’s biggest challenge has always been, how to deal with the 800-pound gorilla that is WhatsApp, which has over 200 million monthly active users in India. Earlier this year Hike tried to do something different when it unveiled a brand new mobile operating system, Total, that offers services, such as, messaging and browsing some online content without using data. Hike Total is targeted at lower end smartphones but seems to have failed in gaining any serious traction.
The other area which Hike tried to differentiate itself was with peer-to-peer payments. Hike announced in November last year that it had partnered with Airtel Payments Bank to power the wallet service it launched in June 2017. The partnership with Airtel Payments Bank allowed Hike to offer UPI payments as well which enabled bank to bank transfer to users who are not on Hike. But this early mover’s advantage may have now withered with WhatsApp launching its UPI payments service.