Hike, the parent company of the popular Indian chat app Hike Messenger, has launched a new product called Hike Total which aims to offer internet services to Indian consumers who do not have internet access. Hike Total will be embedded on low-cost smartphones, building on Hike's strong partnerships with telcos such as Bharti Airtel and device manufacturers Intex and Karbonn. Hike Total is significant not only because it offers non-internet users a taste of the internet and encourages data usage, but also because it has brought together telcos, OTT players, and smartphone manufacturers to work closely on bringing the next billion online.
The ecosystem unites to connect the unconnected
India's mobile market is the world's second largest after China, with 1.18 billion mobile phone users. However, only 371 million of these are mobile internet users. In the past two years, the Indian market has seen a large amount of consolidation, such as the planned merger between Idea Cellular and Vodafone India, which was prompted by digitally focused telco Reliance Jio's entrance. This disruption has led to lower prices for data connectivity and more appealing digital services for the Indian consumer. But getting the long tail of Indian users online is still a challenge given the barriers to entry, including the need for consumers to purchase data plans and then sign up to various internet services.
Hike aims to break down these barriers by embedding Hike Total on low-cost devices and creating an internet-ready service that demands little work from the user. Once the device is unboxed, the user must agree to the service terms, after which several of Hike Total's services, such as chat, payments, and information, can be launched, without internet access. Although the platform uses USSD to deliver messages, it still provides a UI akin to an internet-based chat app. The telco's role is to enable the USSD channel and to sell data sachets priced as low as Re.1 (1.5 US cents) for 20MB of data.
Hike Total enables telcos to incrementally grow revenue while easing customers into using more data services. It is also beneficial to smartphone vendors, setting their devices apart from others in the competitive Indian market and enabling growth opportunities in the country's tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Hike Total will benefit Hike itself by increasing its user base and attracting users whose first experience of the internet will be the Hike Messenger app, which will hopefully foster a long-term relationship between the customer and Hike. Hike needs to grow its market share in India: WhatsApp had 200 million monthly active users last February, compared to Hike's reported 100 million registered users in early 2017. Hike Total could give Hike the boost it requires in customer acquisition.
Hike Total is unique in the Indian market and a great example of how different players in the ecosystem can work together to grow customers and revenues. However, its rate of growth will be slower than that of other OTT services, given that its uptake is tied to the sale of new handsets from Intex and Karbonn.
Operator–OTT Partnerships Tracker: 3Q17, CES001-000002 (November 2017)
Telco–OTT Partnership Series: Netflix and Pay-TV Operators, TE0003-000805 (October 2014)
Telco–OTT Partnership Series: Sprint and Spotify, TE0003-000785 (August 2014)
Telco–OTT Partnership Series: Telefonica and Rhapsody, TE004-000744 (January 2014)
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Telco–OTT Partnership Series:China Unicom and Tencent, TE004-000745 (December 2013)
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"Millicom (Tigo) partners with Netflix in Latin America," TE0001-001035 (June 2016)
Neha Dharia, Senior Analyst, Consumer Services