Hike, India’s Mobile Messaging Upstart, Expands Language Support & Adds Offline Messaging, Stickers & More To Fuel Growth

There’s no room at the digital inn for more mobile messaging apps, but that’s not stopping them crowding in. Hike, an Indian mobile messaging app that’s only been around six months but has amassed more than five million registered users in that time, is doubling down on its home market while expanding its accessibility further afield too.

Version 2.2 of the hike app adds support for four new languages — Spanish, French, Russian, and Portuguese — building out the previously supported two: English and German. The company said it plans to aggressively expand its language support each month as it chases after scale. And, evidently, as it chases competitors such as Japan’s Line which is also expanding into global markets such as Europe and LatAm.

“We’re targeting those languages which we’ve seen the most demand for,” says the company. “With these languages, and English and German already supported, we’ll be supporting approximately more than 85% of the world’s mobile population. In addition to this, we’ll also be adding support for four new languages every month.”

Interestingly, hike does not yet support any Indian languages owing to the linguistic landscape being so diverse, with more than 15 major languages spoken across the region. It does plan to start tackling this though, with Hindu support likely coming next to cover off a significant chunk of the population. It also intends to build native Indian language support and keyboards for all major languages into its app so it doesn’t have to depend on the OS/device (OS fragmentation is another big issue in the region).

“We’ll probably be launching Hindi support next (which’d cover a significant portion of the Indian population), as well as some other top languages. You can expect much deeper local language support in the coming months,” it says.

As well as extending its global reach by bolstering language support, the new version of the hike app adds a feature hike is hoping will give it serious uplift in its home market. Offline messages is an SMS conversation tech the company told TechCrunch about back in May. The feature allows users in India to keep in touch, regardless of whether the person they are sending a message to has 3G data enabled or not because messages are converted to SMS for delivery if there’s no viable data connection.

Other new features in v2.2 of hike’s app include, somewhat inevitably, sticker packs — showing how hike is following in the footsteps of messaging competitors such as Line and Viber by sharpening its entertainment credentials. As Line has, hike has launched its own brand characters in sticker form, along with various other types of sharable imagery such as “expressions, rage faces, and some localised stickers targeted specifically at the Indian market”.

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“It’s been around 15 hours since we launched, and we’re seeing the usage of stickers increase every hour. We’ll easily hit more than one million stickers shared on Day 1,” it says. “We expect it to grow significantly, both organically and through some innovative marketing efforts that we’ve lined up to take them mass market in India.”

For now hike’s stickers are free but it intends to launch paid packs to monetise the feature in future — as Line has successfully been doing. “We do expect stickers to become a significant revenue stream going forward,” it says, but adds that its focus is not yet on revenue.

For the moment, hike’s focus is on building out features to help it grow, since occupying such a competitive space as messaging absolutely necessities maintaining momentum — or the risk is to fall by the wayside as rivals streak ahead.

Other new features introduced in v2.2 of hike include a mode called Last Seen, which allows users to share with chosen friends when they were last online. Hike also says it has improved the operation of a Walkie-Talkie feature — which it notes offers an accessible messaging option to Indian users who can’t use an English keyboard — to make that easier to use.

“After this update, we plan to add a couple of really good features geared mostly towards growth and in-app engagement. We’ve observed that personalized content drives conversations, and we’ll leverage that in a very clever way soon to drive conversations on hike. We also plan to ride existing social networks and bring groups of friends on hike,” it adds.