Hike, the Indian company that once gained popularity in the country’s instant messaging market by introducing a local alternative to WhatsApp, is looking to expand its presence by introducing a mobile virtual space called HikeLand to the masses. HikeLand was first launched in June for initial testing and has now been removed from the early preview. Hike stated that they have spent an average of 50 minutes on HikeLand every day since launch. This is 15 to 20 minutes more than the average 30-35 minutes spent on the Hike Sticker Chat app.
“Although we came out in an early preview and launched it as a kind of beta product, the time we spent was fantastic,” said Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO of Hike, Gadgets 360 of one virtual call. “But we’re looking forward to the next few months because we’re finally taking HikeLand out of the early preview.”
However, he did not provide any numbers to detail the success of the early adoption of virtual space.
Years after Hike looked for ways to grow as an instant messaging app and then build a super app, he decided to go beyond messaging and text and create a virtual space for social engagement. That’s what HikeLand brought to market earlier this year.
HikeLand is available as a feature on the Hike Sticker Chat app, which the company claims exceeded 20 lakh active users per week in December, and gives users the space to virtually sit down with their friends. It offers Home as a private space where you can watch videos with up to three of your friends and chat with them while you watch content online.
There is a special area called Big Screen for contact with like-minded people other than your existing friends. It works like a virtual theater in which many people can connect to watch videos, look at each other’s profiles and chat individually.
However, Hike wants to expand its engagements on HikeLand, and it has brought games for that. The New Delhi-based company initially added Ludo.
There is a special Ludo icon on the HikeLand home screen that allows users to play the strategy board game with up to three friends.
Mittal said the ludo game was developed in-house and some work was done by small third-party studios. He added that Hike is open to working with game developers and studios to expand the new multiplayer casual gaming experience in virtual space.
“Our goal is not to find ‘professional’ gamers as there are many products out there that are designed for this market,” he said.
In addition to adding ludo, Hike has enabled the option to make group calls with up to three friends directly from HikeLand. The company has also updated its in-app avatars called HikeMoji with full body support. There is a virtual wardrobe with a collection of clothes ranging from Indian and Western to sports, lounge and superheroes, among others. All of this aims to keep people attached to virtual space.
Adding the new features will likely also help Hike attract new users.
Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities dominate the user base
Mittal of Hike told Gadgets 360 that the majority of its users are from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. In fact, it’s 66 percent of the Hike app’s total user base. Therefore, the company decides on the characteristics that are more relevant to the audience living in these cities.
“Hanging out such experiences is much more reliable in the mass market because they don’t necessarily have the facilities to hang out offline,” he said.
The dominance of Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in its user base is also the reason why Hike Ludo was the first to bring Ludo to HikeLand via the expansion of the video content portfolio, which YouTube still has as the only option for its users.
“The demand for games and Ludo was much, much greater than Netflix and Amazon Prime Video,” said Mittal. “But it’s on the list and we’re anticipating it and hopefully getting it on the platform sooner rather than later.”
Growth is likely to continue after the pandemic
Hike’s move with its virtual space is taking place amid the coronavirus outbreak that has driven many of us to go online. It is therefore natural for HikeLand to recognize the signs of its early growth. However, Mittal of Hike is optimistic that growth will continue even after the pandemic, as Hike’s peak consumption was always between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at night.
“We also believe there will be a step forward before and after the pandemic because they now know a lot of things that people didn’t know could be done online, including different ways to hang out with friends,” he said .
However, there is still a guess that the daily average time spent in virtual space would decrease by 40-45 minutes.
“There is no doubt that a little more time is being spent sitting because of the pandemic,” he said.
The growth from HikeLand is expected to ultimately open up the opportunity for Hike to generate income. But Hikes Mittal stated that it would be some time yet and it wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
“We conduct sales experiences in Hike as we speak, and it’s important that we try things out,” he said.