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Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal’s son Kavin betting big on mobile app Hike

Why India's latest chat app isn't a threat to telcos

The popularity of mobile applications may be waning overseas but they remain relevant in India, the CEO of an Indian messaging app provider told CNBC on Tuesday.

Speaking at the sidelines of the RISE 2016, a technology conference in Hong Kong, Kavin Bharti Mittal of messaging platform Hike said in a market such as India, where data usage remained relatively expensive, companies that could combine multiple services into a single app can make a big difference.

"This is very powerful because one more app becomes one more contact in your address book," said Mittal.

Founded in 2012, Hike offers a range of services on its app — users can send messages, share photos, videos and music and have an interactive timeline. Other features include sending stickers, a compact feed of the latest news and a hidden mode to protect privacy.

Mobile app usage has slowed in recent years as users grapple with a plethora of options. Research firm IDC said earlier this month that it expects to see slower growth in both application install volumes and direct revenue over time.

Hike Messenger CEO and founder Kavin Mittal, son of telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal, addresses a press conference at the launch of 'Hike Direct' on October 8, 2015 in New Delhi, India.
Mohd Zakir | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

A June 2015 report from Ericsson Consumer Lab said 44 percent of the respondents in India used Hike at least a month, ranking it a distant second behind Facebook-owned Whatsapp which 98 percent said they used once a month or more.

Hike still appeared to have a relatively high level of engagement among Indian users. According to Mittal, people were sending over 40 billion messages a month and were spending on average 120 minutes a week on the application. "It's pretty crazy," he said.

To date, Mittal said the company has raised about $85 million and counts Japanese internet and telecom giant SoftBank and India's Bharti Enterprise, owner of one of the country's largest telecommunication networks Bharti Airtel, as its investors.

The founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprise, Sunil Mittal, also happens to be Mittal's father. The company also raised funds from Tiger Global and the founders of Quora and blogging platform WordPress.

Mittal, who interned at the likes of Goldman Sachs and Google, turned down the opportunity to join his father's company in favour of founding Hike.

"I've always wanted to build stuff," said the junior Mittal. Before starting Hike, he founded a start-up that launched an iPhone app that allowed users to buy movie tickets on the go.

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