CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal’s advice on building a customer-centric organisation is simple – build stuff what people want. Speaking at Nasscom Product Conclave (NPC 2016), he disclosed that a day after its launch in December 2012, messaging app Hike was number one in Germany. The next day it was number one in the Middle East.
“We didn’t know what hit us. We realised that the 128-bit encryption over WiFi helped us in these countries which are paranoid about privacy and security. So we had a couple of thousand people using the app outside of India while we were building for India.”
So the Germany-Middle East buzz taught him an important lesson – they would have failed if they built stuff which people don’t want. And that’s what he believes Hike has done enough to succeed in the last three-four years of its journey.
And to build stuff people really people want, he believes one really has to understand humanity. What’s common between the US, China, Japan is the people – who have different needs – and Hike spends a lot of time understanding how people lead their lives.
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With players such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Google Allo on the scene, Kavin believes that the one thing that will help you over competitors is if you understand the needs of this country very specific better than them.
In every market, he believes there will be a super app, and a second app that starts off with the youth but will do much more. Giving the example of Tencent’s QQ in China (800 Mn users) which is more youth-focussed, he believes that he could replicate the same success in India. Especially with Hike’s focus on privacy in the light of India’s diverse social structure and a burgeoning youth population.
In tier II and II cities, smartphones are still shared in many families. And that one insight – understanding the need for privacy, has helped Hike and given it a huge advantage on ground, while building a messaging platform. However, the thing that Hike has clearly understood is India will take time to come online in a proper way.
The market is still small and it will take another four to five years for a good 500 Mn active Internet users in the country. With Tencent backing it now, Hike now has the capital to accelerate its vision, as it gears up to monetise in the coming three-four years.
All in all, he believes that messaging will play a similar, big role in India as in China, but maybe in a different way given India is more of a visual and sight- to-sound market than a chat market. Hence, Hike would focus on investing more in sight and sound or video applications.
With 4G gaining ground in India, Kavin believes that disruption in messaging is just around the corner. In the future, he believes, apps will merely become one contact in a messaging application as people spend more and more time in messaging.