Hike Messenger, an Indian would-be rival to WhatsApp

Hike Messenger, an Indian would-be rival to WhatsApp, has unveiled a platform enabling users without mobile data subscriptions to access its online services, in an effort to attract the 850 million people who still lack internet access. Hike’s Total platform, a modified version of Google’s Android operating system, will enable users to access its feature-rich messaging service and a range of functions from train information to cricket score updates, while paying their telecom operator only for a basic voice service. The move is Hike’s latest attempt to narrow the huge lead of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which counts India as its biggest market in terms of users. The messaging company said last year it had more than 200 million monthly active users in the country… Last year the number of Indian internet users reached about 450 million… out of a total population of 1.3 billion… The proprietary technology is built around the USSD protocol that has been used for mobile payments in other emerging markets such as Tanzania. It was commonly used for simple services such as mobile credit top-ups before the advent of smartphones… The new service is supported by Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telecoms operator with 299 million users, as well as Aircel and BSNL.
Simon Mundy