LIVE FROM RISE, HONG KONG: Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO of India-based messaging app Hike, believes the proliferation of apps on smartphones, with multiple logins and immeasurable data consumption, is confusing users, and sees an opportunity for the app ecosystem to be simplified.
“When I buy a smartphone as a consumer, I have 15 different apps, but I have 15 different user experiences that consume data in 15 different ways, which need 15 different sign-ons. It’s a very complicated world,” Mittal (pictured, left) said in an interview with CNBC’s Akiko Julia Fujita (pictured, right).
He said it’s not good enough and sees an opportunity to go one level deeper and “collapse the value chain and make it very simple and make the internet itself – the MBs and GBs – completely disappear”.
The average smartphone user in India has 32 apps, with about half of them preloaded but not necessarily used – they’re just “bloatware” sitting on the devices, he said.
“We’re a big believer that the app model is broken. If you fast-forward four to five years, most of people’s time will be spent inside a handful of applications, where services are contextually driven based on what they are doing at the time. We hope to be one of the strong platforms in the country doing that four to five years from how.”
Hike, the country’s third largest messaging platform with 100 million users, added a wallet service to its platform in June.
Mittal said Hike, which recently released version 5.0, evolved from a simple messaging app to a rich messaging app with payments: “In four years our user [base] has evolved tremendously, but it’s still early days in the journey of building Hike as a platform.”
Video consumption increased and the average time spent on the app rose from 18 minutes to 24 minutes per day in the last nine months
He attributed these increases to improvements in the country’s infrastructure, specifically 4G networks, adding India experienced a step change in user behaviour over the past year. India now counts more than 100 million 4G users and 300 million smartphone users.
Asked about taking the app beyond India, he said “never say never”. There are similar emerging markets globally, such as Sri Lanka and a couple of countries in Africa, he said.
“India has a billion people, so we have a long way to solving some of the many problems the country has. But [to] do them at scale, I think we can port them fairly easily to other countries.”
While Hike doesn’t release target numbers, he said it has an opportunity to have 200 million to 300 million users, noting WeChat and WhatsApp together have more than half a billion active monthly users in India.
Hike is a joint venture between SoftBank and Bharti Airtel parent Bharti Enterprises, which is also backed by WeChat owner Tencent and Foxconn.