Kavin Bharti Mittal unveils the cool new HikeLand – that includes a virtual movie theatre for the post COVID world

Kavin Bharti MittalHike
  • HikeLand is a mobile-first virtual world for people to hang out with friends.
  • The latest feature from Hike offers two experiences right now - Home, where you can add a friend on Hike and watch movies together and Big Screen, which works exactly like a theatre but online.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Kavin Bharti Mittal says HikeLand is beyond the transactional elements of the social media platforms today.
  • While HikeLand is currently integrated with YouTube only for content, Mittal says they are soon looking at adding Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc.
Over the last three years, there has been a lot of curiosity about the Hike – what was once India’s fastest unicorn had fallen into a pit in 2018 ⁠— much like the portrayal in the infamous SoftBank presentation ⁠— but came out with flying colours last year with its now famous Hikemojis.

Founder Kavin Bharti Mittal, who walked away from his dream of a super app after investing three years, is now back with an ambitious venture – a virtual world that seems apt in post-COVID world. His team at Hike had been working on it much before coronavirus struck.

Today (June 17), Hike finally launched its much-awaited HikeLand – a virtual world for friends to hang out, watch movies, chat, and more.

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“This was a step at figuring out the future of social products. We have been stuck in innovations in the last decade which has been for the 2G/3G world – messaging, calls, etc. Products have been transactional. Today, we are finally in that place where we can change that with good smartphones, cheap 4G and still put the value of relationships at the centre,” Mittal told Business Insider.

Theatre with a twist

The virtual world builds on the Hikemoji virtual avatar. At a time when people are stuck at home because of the coronavirus lockdown, HikeLand aims to give them a safe space to hangout. HikeLand offers two experiences right now – Home and Big Screen.

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“In the home feature, you can add one friend and watch a movie together. There are different themes you can select for the home interior too. We are working on enabling users to add more friends in a single home,” said Mittal.
Home at HikeLandHike

"The Big Screen is a theatre with a twist – where you can bump into people virtually. You can join a show playing, start watching and also message other people who are watching the same content with you,” said Mittal.

HikeLand Big Screen featureHike

Keeping the safety of users in mind, one can only send a message to the other person once – only if the other person replies will they be able to have a conversation, but the conversation will last as long as the movie lasts. Phone numbers aren’t shared, only usernames are shared.
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HikeLandHike

While HikeLand is currently integrated with YouTube only for content, Mittal says they are soon looking at adding Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc. “We are not a content company and we can’t curate content for the entire country, so we are also working on letting users choose their own content and create a programming schedule,” said Mittal.

The comeback of Hike

Mittal is confident about the promise of HikeLand. “We are pushing the boundaries on building a brand new user experience of what it means to hang out online. This is the world’s first mobile-first virtual world,” he said.

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With the coronavirus keeping people at their homes, people are looking for more and more ways to spend time with their friends, which has also resulted in a surge of online gaming in India. HikeLand which has been in the making for months now, is being pushed out to give a new platform for users to spend time with friends and family during lockdown.

The vision was in place long before the lockdown

The first line of code for HikeLand was put down in February, while the designs were planted in late 2019, but they brought it to market quickly considering the demand.

“The opportunities of meeting people in the real world is very limited and that’s where HikeLand comes in. This is an early preview and we will keep taking feedback and adding more elements – more homes, games, content sources – as we go,” said Mittal.
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Revenue, the next goal

Hike’s last known valuation is from 2016, when it turned unicorn - $1.4 billion. Since then it hasn't raised funds.

But a virtual world means a virtual economy – and that’s where Mittal is looking for revenue, which will come in in the next few months. The Hike sticker chat now has 2 million weekly active users and with HikeLand Mittal is betting on the numbers to grow.
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Mittal believes the experiences of yesterday were transactional and list-based. But to bring the real world onto a virtual one, it was important to bring sentience to the experience. “Today’s social platforms don’t let you build deeper relationships and HikeLand changes that. We don’t even call this an app, it is a virtual world,” said Mittal.

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