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Kavin Mittal Hike

Kavin Mittal Hike

Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO of Hike. Photo credit: Hike.

India’s homegrown messaging app Hike has added a new Snapchat-like feature called Stories where users can share moments of their life in pictures. This will replace Hike’s timeline, a Facebook Wall-like feature launched last year.

Hike also borrows the popular filters and face swaps of Snapchat. Hike calls them Live Filters and Live Photos. The today also launched a new in-built camera with live filters that automatically detect and recognize a user’s face based on machine learning. You can use the live filters even while chatting with a friend.

“We believe we are behind in the social messaging space, but we are also different,” Kavin Mittal, CEO and founder of Hike, told Tech in Asia today. “Hats off to Snapchat for inventing a loop like Stories. And we thought, why can’t we take inspiration from it and interpret it in our own context. We take what works for us.”

The chat app now has 12 live filters.

After Instagram, Hike is the latest service to adopt the Snapchat-inspired format. Stories show numbers of viewers – rather than ‘likes.’

“One of our goals for 2016 has been to bring photos at the center of Hike. The stories and the live filters will do just that. I really believe the camera is the new keyboard,” says Kavin.

Hike now has 12 live filters, including one starring Narendra Modi, which Kavin says was introduced in honor of the Prime Minister’s “great work.” The team will add content every week, including new filters, face swaps, and stickers. For now, the app will only support picture stories, with video support to be rolled out by year-end.

Last month, Hike launched video calling, which is designed to work even in poor network conditions.

Thinking different

Even prior to today’s new goodies, Hike has been thinking differently to WhatsApp. Inspired by China’s popular WeChat, which integrates a host of services like cashless payments, online shopping, and ticket bookings, Hike recently added live multiplayer gaming. The company has been testing games on its platform since March this year and claims to have seen over 1.3 billion game sessions since then. Kavin indicated Hike will be adding more games in the coming months.

The messaging service has several other features, such as news feeds, live cricket scores, and shopping coupons, in order to retain users in the app for longer. Kavin said he’s working on artificial intelligence-based chatbots, but he doesn’t see a use for them yet. “We may be talking about it next year,” he added.

In August, the startup entered the unicorn club after it raised US$175 million in funding from WeChat maker Tencent and Foxconn, resulting in a valuation of US$1.4 billion.

As of January, Hike had over 100 million registered users, but there’s no word on how many of those are active. WhatsApp is ahead with 160 million monthly active users in India alone.