Messaging app Hike has launched a new technology that makes it easy for Android users to go online after buying a new smartphone. With its patented technology, Total by Hike will reduce the friction for users to set up smartphones, offer a handful of services and messaging without data and give them the option to buy data at price points as low as Re 1. Hike has worked with Airtel to enable the USSD-based services on the network side and Intex and Karbonn as handset partners.
To start with, Total takes over the setup process and preinstalls a bunch of basic apps easily and with minimum use of data. Hike head Kavin Bharti Mittal said the idea was to collapse the dozen or so steps needed to set up a smartphone to just three steps.
Also, the Hike messenger will work on phones with Total without any data. In fact, the service can be used to access services like astrology, cricket scores and even money transfers without any data. Mittal showcased adding money to the wallet and even transferring a amount between accounts without any data. “We are targeting a different user with this,” he said.
Mittal said the services were working on a new technology called universal transfer protocol (UTP), a “supercharged version of USSD”. USSD already has over 300 million users in India, Mittal said. Hike has added smart compression to USSD, made the transmission more reliable, used secure encoding and given a smartphone user experience. Mittal said the technology has been patented and Hike will be the first to use it anywhere in the world.
For instances where data is required, the platform will offer quick purchases of packets as low as 20MB for Re 1 onwards. Mittal said they have worked on offering the user more for the small amounts of data they are buying. So 20MB could be as much as 300 photos or five songs. Also, he said, the packs are priced at least half of existing packages.
Mittal said over the last few years Hike has been working on how to use messaging to simplify the Internet for a billion people. While there were 750 million unique mobile users in India, only 400 million have smartphones and out of that only 200 million where daily active users.
Faisal Kawoosa, Principal Analyst Telecommunications & ESDM at Cyber Media Research, said the biggest challenge for Hike will be that though Intex and Karbonn are among leading brands in India, especially in the target market segment, they have been losing market grip. “They retail channels have little motivation to push these brands and there is no pull as well. Essentially, in the segment where Total is targeting, the retailer is the sales consultant, whose solicitation influences the buying decision. In the present market conditions, it is unlikely that channels would put in extra efforts to sell this concept to potential users.”