The mobile accelerators

The mobile accelerators

Today, Robosoft Technologies, a mobile app development firm, generates 75 per cent of its revenues from outside India. But, given the pace at which India is transitioning to smartphones, Rohith Bhat, the founder, believes that the scales may shift in future. Bhat thanks the company’s early-stage success to its first client, a dream one at that, Apple

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

ROHITH BHAT, FOUNDER AND CEO, ROBOSOFT TECHNOLOGIES

It’s not every day that a startup signs up a revolutionary company on board, as its first client. But, when it does, the learning that comes out of it often lasts a lifetime. Such was the case with Robosoft Technologies (Robosoft), the Udupi -based mobile app development company. “In the early stage, the first client we signed in the app development space was Apple. While we initially started by building apps for the Mac platform, eventually, we started working for their partners as well,” recalls Rohith Bhat, the founder and CEO of the company. He adds, “The biggest learning that came out of it was Apple’s attention to detail. Its customers are very vocal in their feedback and that conditioned us to be careful when developing apps. In fact, quality is built into our company’s DNA now,” indicates Bhat.

Today, Robosoft has three divisions under it; 99Games and Global Delight, its product app development divisions, and Robosoft, its services division. It has over 450 employees on board and has built over 1,000 apps on the iOS, Android and Windows platforms, recording over 100 million downloads. Its clients include companies such as Colors TV, Conde Nast, Network 18, and Apple.

Initially, while the company focussed more on consumer mobility and games, in the last 12 months, it has made some serious foray into enterprise mobility. “Last year, enterprise mobility contributed to just five per cent of our business, while consumer mobility and games contributed 80 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. This year, however, we’re hoping the share of business from enterprise mobility will rise to 15 per cent, because we see it as a key growth driver,” says Bhat.

Last year, enterprise mobility contributed to just five per cent of our business, while consumer mobility and games contributed 80 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. This year, however, we’re hoping the share of business from enterprise mobility will rise to 15 per cent, because we see it as a key growth driver.

Fuelling expansions

In July 2013, Robosoft secured its first round of institutional funding, to the tune of Rs. 22 crore, from Kalaari Capital. As a part of the deal, Sumit Jain and Kumar Shiralagi came on board as directors. “We’ll be channelising the funds towards expanding our sales team and further developing our presence in the global markets,” says Bhat. Moreover, as a part of the deal, Robosoft plans to enhance its business into a full service model. “Until now, our expertise lay in engineering great products. But, over the past year, we’ve managed to put together a team of 40 designers and strategists. As a result, we can now provide support in terms of cloud back-end and social integration too,” explains Bhat, and adds, “Now, we don’t call ourselves a mobile app development company. We’re a social, mobile, analytics and cloud company,” he reinstates. By early 2015, Robosoft plans to raise a Series B round of funding, to accelerate growth. “Soon, we’ll be going out and raising funds. We haven’t finalised on any investors yet,” he adds.

Banking on mobility

According to a report by Gartner (published earlier this year), in 2013, out of the 1.8 billion mobiles sold, 968 million smartphones were sold to the end user. What this means is, the share of smartphones over feature phones is constantly on the rise in India. “Several such studies have indicated that a large share of the Indian population is going to access Internet directly on the mobile. This is where the opportunity lies for a lot of players like us,” shares Bhat, and indicates that the first sector to transition into mobile was news, then, the other sectors followed suit.

Typically, when adopting a proactive app development strategy, Robosoft conducts extensive research and creates an app on the common platform. This route also involves studying analytics, creating ads, and promoting it on the right platforms. And, it markets its apps through various routes such as social media marketing, SEO Optimisation, word-of-mouth, attending industry conferences, and networking with influencers.  In the case of a reactive strategy, like it did with Apple, it designs apps based on specific client requirements. For instance, when Global Delight launched the Camera Plus app on the iOS platform, in 2009, it became the world’s first photo app to conform to Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, and recorded close to 25 million downloads. In May 2014, it developed an upgraded version of the app, loaded with a new feature called AirSnap, which helps users capture photos and videos remotely by pairing any two iOS 7 devices. Until now, it has recorded 25 million downloads and has nine million active users.

When asked how Robosoft maps its competition, Bhat says, “We don’t have a defined competition, but we have a lot of small companies competing with us on different products.” He believes that Robosoft never sees the same company competing with it on every aspect.

Keeping pace with the growth

Bhat indicates that creating the right design is the primary challenge that Robosoft faces today. “As the concept is new to the industry, we are still trying to figure out what is the best way to build a product with least friction,” says he. And, the second challenge, as is seen widely in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, is in acquiring good talent. “It’s hard to hire employees who’ll help the company grow on a sustainable basis,” he shares.

Until now, Robosoft has created a presence in the Middle East, the U.S., and India, and currently, 75 per cent of the revenues for Robosoft come from outside India. “Since mobility is becoming a high growth segment in India, we expect the business to generate more revenues from here in the coming years. Meanwhile, we’ll also be setting up a branch in London, in the near future,” indicates Bhat. As a second, it also plans to increase its team size, from the current 450 people, to 600 people by FY15.  “Whatever happened to companies in the western market is going to happen in the Indian context as well, where the industry will transition to mobiles,” shares Bhat.

Going forward, he believes that the key growth driver for the company will lie in identifying ways to scale the company in a predictable manner. “The case, as always with products, is to find out how we can make it grow exponentially. And, how do we build a culture which will factor this into consideration,” reflects Bhat, on a concluding note.


WHAT  NEXT

Raise Series B funding by FY15, to accelerate growth

Setup a new office in London, U.K.

Increase employee base from 450 to 600 by FY15

Increase share of business from enterprise mobility apps, from 5 per cent to 15 per cent 


KEY LEARNING:

“GEOGRAPHY IS IRRELEVANT FOR US”

When we founded the company, we started off operations in Mumbai. Since Apple was our first client, all our users were based out of the U.S. During the first two years, all the work happened over the Internet and we’d never met them. So, we understood that if the client was not particular about meeting us or seeing our faces, geography would be irrelevant. Thus, we shifted to Mangalore in 1998, and were allowed to setup an office at an incubation centre, for up to three years. Soon, in 2000, we moved to Udipi. So, the lesson here is, when you build great apps, geography is not a limiting factor at all. In fact, the rise of Internet has made geographical boundaries irrelevant.


Snapshot 

Robosoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

Year: 1996

Founder: Rohith Bhat

Funding: Series A of Rs. 22 crore from Kalaari Capital

City: Udipi