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India's Hike aims to build on messaging success

Hike's office is typical of a technology company these days -- open plan with spaces to work, play and even nap for its 250 staff. (Photo by Jagan Negi)

NEW DELHI -- Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder of India's biggest homegrown messaging network, is sitting in his new office savoring a satisfying moment. His Hike Messenger mobile app has just signed up its 100 millionth user after about three years in operation. Now the 28-year-old son of billionaire telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal is eyeing even more ambitious numbers.

Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder of Hike Messenger (Photo by Jagan Negi)

"We're at the beginning of the beginning of this Indian market," said the younger Mittal, chief executive of Hike, which is backed by a joint venture between Japan's SoftBank and his father's Bharti Enterprises, which controls Bharti Airtel, the country's biggest mobile operator. Only about 150 million of India's 1.2 billion populace are now mobile Internet users, Mittal says, dismissing estimates that 400 Indians are online as "total nonsense."

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