The app(t) business

The app(t) business

Rohit Singal, Founder and CEO, Sourcebits Technologies

“When I looked at my future I realised I wasn’t passionate about a career in radiology, so I had to really stop and think about what would make me truly happy,” recalls Rohit Singal, founder and chief-executive officer of the Bengaluru-based Sourcebits Technologies (Sourcebits). He then realised that he was extremely passionate about the technology world, especially the ecosystem around Apple and its products. He started Sourcebits, a company that develops mobile applications, in April 2006 on the Mac platform, right after completing his post graduation in radio-diagnosis. It was a bit of a gamble for him then, he says, because Apple’s Mac sales were at an all-time low and the iPhone hadn’t even been announced yet. But he still went ahead with his conviction that it was the platform to be on. Convincing his family about his unrelated new venture after spending 10 years in medicine was a tough task for him. Then again, his belief in the future of mobile applications business kept him going, and today, the company has developed over 350 applications (apps) and worked with over 100 clients, many of whom are Fortune 1000 companies.

Our first app for iPhone was ‘Night Stand’ and it was a huge success with three million downloads in the first few months.

Initial strategy

Coming from a medical background, setting up the organisation and getting that first client were Singal’s foremost challenges. The company’s initial strategy was to build a product, get noticed and then take it from there. “Ultimately, it proved to be just that simple,” recalls Singal. Sourcebits built a product called ‘Fun Booth’ that was the first product utilising face-detection on the Mac platform. “People saw what we were doing, loved it and business started pouring in,” he says.

None of this happened without the initial hiccup or two. The company made no revenue for the first six months of operation, perhaps a hurdle that nearly all new businesses face. “The scariest thing about starting a new venture is putting up all that money and hoping you aren’t just waving goodbye to it,” says Singal. It was his belief that Sourcebits was going to succeed and the fact that he was excited to get to work, even when there was no true finish line in sight, which kept him going. The launch of Apple’s iPhone software development kit in 2007 was a turning point for Singal. The company made its own app for the iPhone named ‘Night Stand’. “It was a huge success with three million downloads in the first few months,” shares Singal.

The idea behind apps

Sourcebits gets almost 85 per cent of its revenues by building apps tailored to client specifications for various platforms like the iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile 7 platforms and RIA (Rich Internet Application) at its development centre for which it charges a service fee. The remaining 15 per cent of the revenue is generated by selling its own apps in the app store. Here, 70 per cent of the revenue (in the form of download fee) goes to Sourcebits while the remaining 30 percent goes to the app store owners. Currently, most of its applications have a download fee. But there are some apps that can be downloaded for free. “One needs to understand the App Store model.  It doesn’t allow you to have trial applications. If you make a paid app, which needs some publicity, that’s when you make a free app for it with lesser features. If people like it, they buy the full application,” says Singal.

Snap Shot

Sourcebits Technologies
Founder: Rohit Singal
Year: 2006
City: Bengaluru

And generating fresh ideas for fresh apps is a creative process that Sourcebits encourages. While there is no formal process for submitting new ideas, Singal tries to understand if the concept works from a business standpoint.  Sourcebits’ ideas are driven by three main factors, namely, One, is it solving a problem that the company is facing? Two, is it improving a product that is already available in the market? Three, is it a new technology product that the world has not seen? Answering these questions has proven to be crucial in developing apps that are market-ready.

Today, Sourcebits has offices in Bengaluru, Atlanta and San Francisco, but its employees are spread across the world. It believes in going where the talent is and has people in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. “Today’s digital communication lets us keep in touch with all our employees and clients via email, instant message, video conferencing and even old-fashioned face-to-face meetings,” adds Singal. The company has a present work force of around 400, which it plans to increase to 800 by the next year.  With a year-on-year growth of around 150 per cent, its revenue for the last fiscal was close to US $ 6.5 million and it plans to be a US id=”mce_marker”00 million company in next four to five years. To facilitate its growth, it raised US $ 10 million from IDG Ventures and Sequoia Capital in May this year. The funds are being utilised to improve its products and enhance its service base in India, the U.S. and Europe.

Game for the future

Market potential for the mobile apps business in India and globally is quite promising. In fact, Singal expects the mobile services industry to become a one trillion dollar industry by 2015. “I believe there’s no such thing as too much competition. There is space for everyone, however, the companies that will be able to compete globally with its quality work will be the true success stories of this new industry,” he states.

As for Sourcebits’ future, developing gaming apps is the next focus area for the company. It has a gaming studio named ‘Wandake’ and has already published games under it. “One of our games, Robokill, made the Top 10 list on the App Store and is a big success,” says Singal. The company has several AAA titles (big long form games) in the pipeline and hopes to launch a big game out of its studio in January 2012.

Singal is glad he went with his gut instinct to be in this business and that too, at the right time. “Be original, execute with world class quality and rest assured, money and fame will come. If you have the talent, the drive and the ideas, there are great opportunities to succeed,” he signs off.

What next?

Developing gaming apps is Sourcebits’ next focus area. It has a gaming studio named ‘Wandake’ and has already published games under it.

Top 3 downloaded Sourcebits applications

Night Stand – it displays an electronic clock on the iPhone or iPod touch

Robokill –a game for the iPad and iPhone

Daily deeds –a simple and fun way to motivate yourself to perform the things you need to do every day

Top 3 downloaded applications that Sourcebits has made for its clients

Sky fire – first browser for iPhone that can play Adobe Flash content

Beast farmer –a game that will transport you to the mythical lands of Beast Planet

Knocking live video – this game lets you broadcast video with anyone, anywhere

A word about steve jobs by singal

Steve created an ecosystem that was entirely based on user experience and quality. For entrepreneurs like me, who believed in this direction, it continues to be a huge opportunity. So, all i would like to say is, thank you steve!

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