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Messaging app Hike could start giving WhatsApp a run for its money in India

With nearly 20 percent of the world’s population in India, it’s no wonder that there’s a lot of communication going on within the Southeast Asian nation. And it looks like a whole lot of that communication is taking place by way of India’s newest unicorn. Meet Hike, a four-year-old messaging app that is now valued at an impressive $1.4 billion following its latest $175 million round of funding. So watch out, Whatsapp — you may not have as firm a grip on the Asian market as you think.

At the helm of the latest funding round is Tencent, the Chinese investment company that is no stranger to messaging apps. Previously, the firm invested in WeChat, a big name in China’s market, and Tencent is now looking beyond its borders.

“Hike deeply understands India; a highly diverse market with many nuances. It is on a mission synergistic to ours, which is to enhance the quality of human life through internet services,” said Tencent President Martin Lau. “With our investment, Hike will be able to leverage our deep domain expertise in the messaging platform space to provide more value to its users in India.”

So what’s the big draw of the app? While Hike looks a lot like the numerous other messaging platforms available today, it also comes with free voice calling, a privacy option that lets users hide chat messages, and the capacity to send text messages to non-Hike users. And while Facebook’s WhatsApp remains the dominant force in India, Hike may be gaining ground.

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“Every market has two messaging apps that do well,” Hike CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal told TechCrunch. “There’s one that replaces SMS and one that does a lot more than that. Hike doesn’t even compete with WhatsApp today, it is used very actively in addition to other apps.” And with its relatively young user base, Mittal seems confident that his app will persevere.

“Ours is a messaging app born for India’s young internet generation,” he told Bloomberg. And so far, it looks like he’s right.