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How did they Do It: Bullseye Marketing by Hike Messenger

hike messenger app marketing
Welcome aboard! The popular “How Did They Do It” series of AppN2O is now on OpenXcell! Take a ride with App Marketing Champs of the World. Today’s Champ: Hike Messenger

Hike has once again made news recently as it acquired US-based voice-calling firm Zip Phone in early January, and shortly after that it launched its free voice-calling feature called Hike Calls. Hike, with its each consistent milestone since its inception, has left the audiences anticipating a newer and greater accomplishment every now and then. Apparently, as an answer to these extended anticipations, last year Hike managed to surpass the downloads of messaging giant Whatsapp to become the topmost free mobile app across Google Play, App Store and Windows platform in India.

Almost 2 years back , Hike Messenger, a free indian instant-messaging mobile app was developed by Bharti Softbank. This messaging app since then has been offering a myriad of features apart from exchanging text messages. It includes sharing audio and video media messages, documents, stickers, free SMS and voice calling. The company reveals that 80% of its users are below the age of 25. Also, Indian market makes 90% of Hike’s users making it #1 messaging platform for the youth in India.

So, the question still persists, how did they actually make it happen? Without a much ado, let’s figure out the marketing strategies that went behind the success of Hike.

App Optimization- Constantly added cutting-edge features to outperform

Though it seemed like a far fetched dream to even think of competing a giant app like whatsapp, Hike actually did struggle really hard and managed to periodically update their system to witness groundbreaking results. Hike couldn’t have better undertaken app optimization in order to turn the table round than the way it has been doing till date.

It just so happened that, after the launch, the developers with a critical strategy in mind were determined to divert whatsapp users on to using Hike permanently. With a strong determination to leverage the benefits of app optimization and bettering the app on constant basis, the app was back-to-back integrated with features which were certainly not available elsewhere. Not even in Whatsapp and various messaging giants!

Eventually, the developers were successful in consistently integrating inventive features that helped Hike to have a notch above the leading instant messaging giants. For instance, Hike offered a feature wherein users could share file upto 100 MB, while Whatsapp was still lingering at 16 MB. For that matter, Hike’s unique privacy features and hidden mode feature left every other youngster in its home market India opting for Hike over any other popular messaging app.

On the idea of bettering and polishing the app time to time, Kavin bharti Mittal, Head of Product and Strategy, stated, Since the successful launch of the product in the market, we’ve made a remarkable amount of improvement to the product particularly for the users on 2G networks or low-end smartphones. We’ve also built distinctive features for the diverse market in India.”

Targeted “potential” customers via App Localization & Regional Stickers

  • Strategically leveraging App Localization

As a part of their strategy to brush up the app continually, developers considered App Localization as one of their key aspects to reach out Hike’s potential users across the globe. Apart from localizing the app in English and German language at the first go, Hike app later on expanded its language support for four new European languages that included Spanish, French, Russian, and Portuguese. The decision to localize the app in these languages was only taken after learning that its previously incorporated German language support saw its numbers increase steadily in Germany.

On this noticeable push towards expanding its international footprints just when the app was approaching the 10 million download mark, Kavin Bharti Mittal stated that, “New language support marks just the first step in a greater global push. Hike will add “four to five languages each month” in order to encourage continued international growth.”

  • Offering Regional Stickers- A great way to draw personal connection

Hike, along with strategizing its language support, was equally determined about exploring STICKER feature- An element that was widely explored by fellow competitor apps lately. Though, Hike’s approach was a tad different from the rest. Developers apparently came up with a collection of regional stickers that would effortlessly grab the attention of respective Indians. Along with the localised stickers, Hike also launched its own brand characters in sticker form and other shareable imagery such as expressions and rage faces.

hike stickers

The outcome was astounding- Hike easily hit more than 1 million stickers shared on Day 1. The very next plan was to grow significantly, both organically and through some innovative marketing efforts to take the feature to the mass market in India.

Indeed, the personalized stickers were alluring and connective to such an extent that the youngsters in India preferred conversing with the the help of these localised stickers rather than in literal words. Hike couldn’t have integrated a better fun element that simply led to increased user engagement. Also, offering regional stickers made a great substitute for localizing the app in regional languages.

Integrated reward programs to lure Indian customers

  • Reward based referral programs

Hike integrated a very unique reward based referral program to attract extended mass to download Hike. Hike choose to offer nothing but monetary rewards. It paid  ₹ 20 for each successful referral and ₹ 15 to the new user who signed up.The user could redeem the money as a talktime for his phone after accumulating atleast ₹ 50.

This certainly made up a niche marketing strategy wherein Hike choose to pay its existing users rather than paying to advertising firms. Also, this strategy allowed the app to get a wider coverage as each existing user was expected to send across free messages to his group of friends.

Along with the referral program, Hike considered a very unique and commendable marketing strategy to attract more customers in India. Hike allowed its users to communicate via SMS with other smartphone users who did not have Hike. To make this feature even more efficient, Hike decided to provide its users with a number of free SMS on inviting friends to Hike.

Hike hits major media platforms in India- Indicates further growth

Hike’s marketing strategy would have remained completely incomplete without running a full-fledged brand and marketing campaigns across TV, Radio and Cinema. However, it were intriguing TVCs that easily grabbed the eyeballs, especially of the youngsters. One of its TVC was taglined ‘Hike up your life’ in which the crux of the ad was to convince the youth to ‘Switch to Hike, No more Whatscrap’!

Have a look!

Speaking about the campaign, Kavin Bharti Mittal stated, “We are now ready to amplify our reach to more users through our full-fledged brand and marketing campaign. ‘Hike Up Your Life’ is a call to the youth of India, to experience a messaging app that is made with their needs in mind.”

Hike’s success timeline

Hike’s success timeline is worth a glance. Have a look at its amusing milestones below:

  • Hike Messenger App got launched globally on 12-12-12 and was made available in more than 100 countries.
  • By February 2013, the App had started catching hold of everyone’s eye and it shook its competitors when it was rated the #1 App on a myriad of platforms on reaching 5 million customer mark.
  • Meanwhile, they raised funds worth $7Million from Bharti Softbank (BSB), collaboration between Bharti Enterprises, owners of Airtel and SoftBank – a Japanese telecom company.
  • Soon in June 2013, Hike launched stickers, to increase user engagement.
  • Soon after completing a year, Hike gained a base of 15 million loyal users in February 2014.
  • In order be at par with their service and strategies, they again managed to raise $14 Million from BSB in April 2014.
  • As of July 2014 it had more than 22 Million active users and it increased over 200K users every day.
  • In January 2015, they introduce Hike calls to its Android app that makes up 90 percent of its user base.



With each critical milestone, Hike made sure it offered ‘something’ new and robust to its users. Integrating one-of-its-kind features periodically was Hike’s key aspect to drive large number of downloads, and it also helped in taking its user engagement to the next level. Hike’s success was nothing less than a mixture of 3 subsequent Strategies- Leveraging app optimization through right marketing tactics, making the most out of word-of-mouth marketing and last but not the least, running dedicated brand and marketing campaigns just where its potential users lived.

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Aparna David

Aparna is an ardent writer who is fond of all things design and technology. She believes in evoking fresh ideas through her writing. In her spare time, she loves to explore novel apps and read about marketing apps and art.