Indian instant messaging platform Hike rolled out an in-app electronic payments wallet on Tuesday in a bid to cash in on rising digital transactions, replicating similar services offered by its backer Tencent Holdings in China.
E-payments have surged in India since a shock ban of high-value bank notes in November last year. Providers such as Paytm, backed by Alibaba and SoftBank Group, have rapidly increased their share of the market amid predictions it will jump nearly 10 times to $500 billion by 2020.
Hike's wallet, however, is the first such service by a messaging platform in the country and comes ahead of a possible launch of a payment facility by Facebook-owned WhatsApp later this year.
Hike said its wallet will allow instant money transfer among its clients and enable fund transfer to banks using the government-backed United Payments Interface (UPI) system.
The startup has been looking at Tencent's WeChat services in China and finding ways to adapt them to India's digital payments market, said Hike Chief Executive Kavin Mittal.
"For sure we talk to Tencent quite often, we are inspired by them and it's great to have them as a partner," Mittal told Reuters in an interview.
Hike has partnered Indian private sector lender Yes Bank to facilitate money transfers to banks using the UPI system, Mittal said.
Besides mobile phone bill payments and traditional wallet-to-wallet transfers, Hike will also allow its users to send "blue packets" or envelopes containing digital money to friends, a feature borrowed from WeChat's "red packets".
Hike, part of India's Bharti Enterprises, says it has more than 100 million registered users.
It was launched in December 2012, and has raised over $260 million from investors including Tiger Global, Tencent and Bharti SoftBank - a joint venture between Japan's SoftBank and Bharti Enterprises.
Headed by Mittal's father, billionaire Sunil Mittal, Bharti Enterprises' businesses include top Indian mobile carrier Bharti Airtel and joint ventures in insurance and renewable.
Paytm is India's biggest electronic wallets provider with 225 million clients. Swedish communications app Truecaller, which has a large user base in India, also started a mobile payment service in the country this year based on the UPI platform.