Hike Joins Unicorn Club

The maker of China's best-selling instant messaging app WeChat has jumped into the Indian fray by co-leading a $175-million (Rs.1,200-crore) investment in Hike, setting up a potential battle with Facebook-owned WhatsApp and helping create the newest Indian startup `unicorn' with a valuation of $1.4 billion.
Tencent has joined forces with Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group to lead the investment in the Delhi-based company , which is founded by Kavin Mittal and counts Japan's SoftBank, Tiger Global and Bharti Enterprises as investors.
For Hike, the investment is advantageous in more ways than one -there's the money , of course, but there is also the technical prowess that WeChat brings, and crucially a proven way to use the messaging platform to provide services which earn a profit.
Hike has raised $250 million so far. The investment is further evidence of the global ambitions of Asian technology companies, which see India as an important market and a battleground where they are competing with more established American corporations. Foxconn is an investor in Snapdeal, which competes with Amazon, and Tencent has backed healthcare technology company Practo. Alibaba is an investor in Paytm and Snapdeal while taxi app Didi Chuxing has backed Ola, although it has now cleaned up Uber in China and entered into a pact with the American company .
According to industry sources, WhatsApp's active user base in India is more than 100 million, or a tenth of its total user base. In January , Hike said it had reached the milestone of 100 million registered users. WeChat has been active in India but failed to make a mark so far, and investment in Hike could help it change this narrative.
Hike is also the largest investment made by Tencent in India. It led a $90-million round in Practo last year.
Hike will use the capital from the latest round to further bulk up its technology infrastructure, workforce and make long-term bets such as machine learning and computer vision. The company will also actively consider acquisitions, Mittal said.
The latest round is preceded by an undisclosed sum raised by the company in January, from a list of high-profile Silicon Valley-based investors, including Quora chief executive officer Adam D'Angelo, Matt Mullenweg of Automattic, Aditya Agarwal, the vice-president of engineering at Dropbox, and Ruchi Sanghvi, the former vice-president of operations at Dropbox.
But its last major funding round was announced in August 2014, which was led by New York-based investment firm Tiger Global, and Hike parent Bharti SoftBank, a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Japanese telecom firm SoftBank Corp.
The latest investment is one of the largest this year, just below Snapdeal's $200-million funding round in February earlier this year. The Snapdeal funding round, however, was largely a secondary sale.

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