Indian WhatsApp-Rival Hike Gets Into Busy Digital-Payments Arena

Hike Messenger has become the latest to join India’s already busy digital-payments segment.

The Indian messaging service debuts Hike Wallet Tuesday for money transfers. The startup, valued at $1.4 billion last year after securing $175 million from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Foxconn Technology Group, now lets its 100 million-plus users move cash between banks and to other people through the country’s Unified Payments Interface gateway.

Hike drew inspiration from Tencent’s WeChat as well as payments startups in Korea and Japan, but says its own service was tailored for a country where smartphones are often shared between family members, and with poor internet and financial infrastructure.

“What we have built is our own and designed for India,” founder and Chief Executive Officer Kavin Bharti Mittal said by phone. 

Kavin Bharti Mittal

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg

Mittal, son of the billionaire chairman of Bharti Airtel Ltd., launched Hike in 2012. The service, which competes with Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp in India, caught on among younger users because of features from local-language stickers to ‘hidden’ or private chat. Hike Wallet is its latest upgrade, coming after a redesign that added Snapchat-like touches such as selfie modifications.

It will face plenty of competition in payments from market leader Paytm, backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., as well as Swedish startup Truecaller and potentially WhatsApp. Facebook is said to have filed an Indian patent application for a transactional payments system.

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