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India's homegrown messenger Hike signals its demise and a missed opportunity

Less than two weeks ago, India's first and only indigenous messenger app, Hike, announced its passing. The "Bharti" in Mittal's middle name also belongs to India's largest -- or second largest, depending on how the numbers look on any given day -- telecom company, Bharti Airtel, which was started by Kavin's father Sunil Mittal, who was once a humble bicycle spare parts purveyor that, in fairytale fashion, rose to become the owner of one of India's most prominent companies. A STRATEGY THAT DIDN'T STICK. For Hike to have represented a continuing bet worth taking, there should have been a convincing line of attack that seemed worth banking on. However, the company's existential muddle may have set in right from the beginning. When I first reported on the outfit in 2013 while meeting with Kevin at his offices, resplendent in glass and steel and packed with busy people engaged in a flurry of activity, it seemed that the company had everything it would need to rival WhatsApp, a well-known name in India at the time with 20 million users, but relatively unknown outside of the country. From the outset, Hike was confronted with one of two different models to benchmark -- a plain and simple messaging app like WhatsApp; or an "ecosystem" app like WeChat, which captured its users' attention from the time she woke up in the morning all the way to bedtime. Since then, WeChat users have been encouraged to order cabs, buy flowers, video chat parents, rejig a stock portfolio, buy some life insurance, and pay for their dry cleaning, all without ever leaving the app.

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