Hiking the Internet for the unconnected India

18th January 2018
Hiking the Internet for the unconnected India

An intelligent step by Hike to bridge Bharat with India digitally|
By Faisal Kawoosa, Principal Analyst Telecommunications & ESDM, CyberMedia Research

New Delhi, January 18 2018: Last week in an exclusive analyst interaction with CMR, Kavin Bharti Mittal, Founder of Hike messaging platform, walked through how Hike had come out with a solution attempting to encourage people go beyond voice and start unleashing the digital power.
Announcing Total, starting with Intex and Karbonn as initial device partners, Hike has definitely come out with an intelligent proposition from technology perspective, where using the USSD communication channel they have made the basic digital services free without having the need of accessing Internet.  Users can now enjoy some of the basic but widely used services like chatting, wallet, astrology, train updates, etc. without having the data subscribers.  And wherever, the service demands having a data pipe mandatorily, for instance, while downloading pictures, it prompts and also facilitates for purchasing data at specially negotiated prices for this segment. To add further, the service is not confined to airtel as an operator. There are other operators leaving it to users to decide which service to use.
However, there are three fundamental questions that Total has to answer over a period of time.  Firstly, unless the user is not buying any data pack, what category would the user fall in.  Definitely not a voice user, but can we define it as a data user as well?  Surely, it’s not a data user even if there are some non-voice applications being used.
The second challenge is for whom Total is being launched.  Nowadays, data has got dirt cheap.  Agreed, that for even a basic data plan, one has to shell out roughly Rs 150 (approx. $2 plus), but buying a data plan gives a lot more, for instance, video and picture data type consumption.  So, any user wanting to use data for these applications, shall still have to buy data.  Also, what excites more to users about Internet is pictures, videos and music – at whatever level of socio-economic profile. With Total experience that’s not coming through.
The third and most important challenge is the choice of partners Hike is going with.  Intex and Karbonn, no doubt is among leading brands, especially in the target market segment, where Total would add value.  But, the dynamics have changed recently.  Indian brands including these are losing the market grip. They retail channels have little motivation to push these brands and there is no pull as well.  Essentially, in the segment where Total is targeting, the retailer is the sales consultant, whose solicitation influences the buying decision.  In the present market conditions, it is unlikely that channels would put in extra efforts to sell this concept to potential users.  What might also affect the uptake is how quick can the device partners serve the demand and ensure sufficient supplies in the markets.
Technically, Total is an intelligently crafted answer by Hike to bridge the digital divide in the country.  However, on the execution, it has to get aggressive across the value chain and have a very tight grip all along to let the solution reach the potential users with quickest turnaround.