Indian messaging company HIke now allows services on its messaging app to be available to mobile phone users without the access to mobile data. The service, “Total, built by Hike”, provides offline services including messaging, recharge, P2P money transfer, as well as checking cricket scores and train status.
Hike Total requires a special version of the Android OS to function. To enable this, Hike has partnered with local smartphone makers Karbonn and Intex to launch smartphones that have pre-installed Hike Total. The first batch of smartphones is expected to be available in the market on March 2018 with prices starting from IDR 3,000 (USD 45).
Great potential to reach the local market with no internet access
While smartphone adoption in India is growing, as is mobile data access following the launch of disruptive operator Reliance Jio, the Indian market remains relatively under-penetrated in terms of mobile data consumption. According to IHS Markit, there are 1.2 billion mobile subscriptions in India in 2017, with 38% of them were smartphones. There were 296 million 3G and 156 million 4G subscribers; indicating around 62% of total mobile subscibers were still using pre-3G technology or with no access of internet. Hike sees this as its opportunity to launch offline services to fill in the gap. Hike Total plays a complementary role beside the Hike messaging app from app store. Users can always switch to data mode whenever internet connection is available.
Hike’s local knowledge helps the messaging company to strengthen its position in India
Android dominates the market in India accounting for 95% of Android smartphones. At launch, Hike Total will be made available on selected Android devices from partnering mobile manufacturers.
The technology behind the offline service is UTP (Universal Transfer Protocol), which is a supercharged USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) protocol. Hike partners with local mobile operators, Airtel, Vodafone, Aircel and BSNL to enable the USSD technology and data upsell on Hike Total. The lowest data plan is available at 20MB for IDR 1. Hike claims that it is the first company that uses this technology and it has patented the technology.
Despite the innovation, service availability remains limited at launch
Users without the dedicated devices and those who are not the customers for partnering mobile operators will not be able to use the service, thereby limiting the potential adoption at launch.
The new service requires users to buy a brand new smartphone with preloaded Hike Total. Hike Total is therefore aimed not at its existing users, who will already have smartphones and at least some access to mobile data, but rather new users who are upgrading from feature phones and so Hike can acquire new users.
Hike Total will be most attractive to first time mobile users
This innovation will help Hike to continue to grow its branding in the local market. Hike innovates aiming to acquire more users who do not have access to internet. Hike has an advantage in the market with its strength in understanding the needs and interests of Indian mobile users compared to its international competitor, WhatsApp which is currently the most popular messaging app in the country.
The subscriber growth of Hike is positive in near future with the presence of Hike Total. With the right marketing and affordable price targeted at users with low budget, the offline feature will be attractive to first-time mobile users.
Low data services are crucial for driving growth in less mature markets
Hike is not the only company using low or zero data to services to capture market share in India. Notable examples include Facebook’s attempts, eventually prohibited by the regulator, to launch its Free Basics zero-rated services in the country. Google has also made India a target for various light versions of its Android services to capture market share in India.