Bharti Softbank investing $7M in its messaging app to attract 15M users

The company is aiming to quadruple the current user base of five million in its messaging app, hike, by end-2013, by investing in new features and marketing.

Bharti Softbank (BSB) is spending US$7 million to attract up to 15 million new users to its messaging app--or about 50 cents per sign up, with the investment going toward new features and marketing.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet, Bharti Softbank head of product and strategy Kavin Mittal said the company hopes the investment will triple or quadruple the user base. BSB recently announced that smartphone users downloaded hike five million times in the past four months. 
Bharti Softbank's messaging app, hike.

The lion's share of the US$7 million would be used to acquire staff and accelerate the frequency of releases. Mittal declined to disclose how much had been invested in hike to date. There have been eight major updates over the past four months, he pointed out, which have culminated in the second version of the app.

The funds will develop the app's capability to send free text messages to Indian mobile numbers.
Mittal aims to add "context" to messaging. "We're looking carefully at things that are working and we're going to iterate on them further. hike2SMS being one of them," he said.
The remainder of the funds will be spent on marketing hike locally and overseas.
"Our focus remains on emerging markets, India in particular. That said, we see that hike's adoption is global with 40 percent of our user base coming from outside India."
In addition to hike, BSB is also developing three other apps:
  • The "hoppr" catalogue of small shops in India.
  • A "BSB Portal" to provide content on mobile devices , which powers the mobile portal of affiliate Airtel.
  • An unreleased gaming app.

BSB is a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Japanese carrier Softbank.