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Hike Messenger buys US Zip Phone to offer net calls

Hike Messenger, a homegrown mobilephone chat application, has bought US startup Zip Phone, which allows users to make and receive calls over Internet.

Hike, owned by a joint venture of Sunil Bharti Mittal's Bharti Enterprises and Japan's Softbank, did not disclose the value of the transaction. The acquisition, first by the company run by Mittal's son Kavin, will put Hike in direct competition with Facebook-owned Messenger and WhatsApp, as well as other messaging-and- calling apps such as Line, WeChat, Viber and Skype. It had earlier provided only messaging services where users could exchange texts and images via Internet on their smartphones.

Zip Phone, a one-man startup founded by Anuj Jain in the US, is a voice-calling app that works globally. Interestingly, the company was also part of the Y Combinator list Summer Batch (2014).
Launched in 2012, Hike has about 35 million users, with most of them being under 25 and in India. It raised about $86 million from Bharti Softbank and Tiger Global Management recently.

"Zip Phone's technology will allow us to bring free voice calling to the market much faster. Incidentally, this is one of the top requested features from our users as well," said Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO, in a statement. Internet calls through such apps are much cheaper than traditional telephone or mobilephone calls. The acquisition comes at a time when WhatsApp plans to introduce free phone calls.

"From day one we've strongly believed that through communication, we can bring India online. With the acquisition we take one more step towards that mission," Kavin said.

This is one of the top requested features from users as well, he said, adding that "we can't
wait to launch this". "As a start-up enthusiast, I had been keeping a close eye on Hike and its developments and I am excited to now be a part of one of the biggest and fastest growing startups in the Indian Internet space and finally, building for India," Jain said.
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