Interview with Ankesh Arora (Mobile Universal)
Mobile Universal is a drag and drop platform for creating mobile apps.
I interviewed Ankesh Arora, Mobile Universal co-founder to find out more. This is the two hundred and seventh in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Ankesh!
How would you describe Mobile Universal in under 50 words?
Mobile Universal is a platform that allows anyone to design and develop an app. No technical or software skills required. If you can drag and drop, you can develop an app. And if you are entrepreneurial, Mobile Universal helps you to start your own mobile app company!
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Mobile Universal?
Technically, the most challenging part was to create a platform where anyone, with no technical or software skills, could develop an app. We wanted to bring the app development process to the point where all you need to do is drag and drop. That’s it!
Another daunting task was to setup the reseller program, which allows users to start their own mobile app company. Via our reseller program, users can create apps for their clients and resell it. As such, we had to create a system that allowed users to manage each of their multiple client accounts.
What has growth been like since you set up?
As far as the growth is concerned, we were fortunate to see significant growth very early in the startup process. This goes against the norm for most startups. So, we did not really have to bootstrap or seek venture capital as Mobile Universal turned profitable very early. To be honest, the DNA of Mobile Universal has been very different from other startups. Usually, startups look for instant growth and scaling in order to seek venture capital. So, they aim to hit a million or so customers as soon as possible.
At Mobile Universal, in addition to getting customers, our focus has also been on building mobile app companies (resellers) under our system. We follow the pyramid pattern so to speak. Imagine yourself sitting on top of the pyramid where you have hundreds of resellers under you. Now, each of those resellers has hundreds of customers under them. The more resellers you create, the more customers they will create under them to grow their own companies. So, each of your reseller’s growth contributes to your growth as you sit on top of that pyramid. This helps us in keeping the growth rate, the ratio of new customers to existing customers, as high as possible.
Something important to remember here, no matter what approach to growth you follow, is that startups should aim to add revenue at an exponential rate while only adding resources at an incremental rate.
As you’ve stated, Mobile Universal hasn’t required venture capital and funding. Do you see this being necessary in the future?
Haha. I think, for any startup, the best time to seek venture capital is when you don’t need it! That being said, Mobile Universal has been doing well and we personally haven’t really given much consideration into venture capital and funding. There are a lot of strings, both good and bad, attached with venture capital. So, if such a situation arises in the future, we would weigh all options and see what is best for Mobile Universal. After all, any such investment needs to be aligned with the mission of the company.
What would you say sets Mobile Universal apart from competitors?
Two things: App Marketing and Reseller Program.
(1) App Marketing: Our customers are mostly businesses like restaurants, boutiques, hotels, etc. that are trying to gain mobile presence and hoping to reach out to their customers. Many companies and freelance developers can develop apps for businesses. But once the app is developed and published on Apple Store, Google Play, etc. most app development companies consider the job done. The reality is that the marketing of the app is as crucial as its development. There is no point in developing an app if you cannot figure out how the app is going to be discovered by your customers. Once you have got that covered, you need to figure out why your customers would return to use your app on a regular basis.
So, app discovery and customer retention become significantly important. As such, Mobile Universal works with its clients even after the app is published on various platforms. We provide clients app marketing strategies as well as means of creating an ongoing value for their customers so that people keep on returning to use the app. What most people do not realize is that the problem of retention is very much linked to the designing of the app. You need to design your app in such a way that it promotes recurring use. You need to ask yourself what your customers want from your mobile app, why would they download it, how and when they would use it. Once you have a good idea about these things, you incorporate these into your design phase. One thing I have learned is that style and substance are not two separate things. It’s one thing! The more the customer likes the style, the more he or she would be inclined to use it. So, in contrast to most app development companies that think app marketing has no relation to app design and development, Mobile Universal designs apps with an elegant user-interface and essential features that are significantly based on app marketing needs. This is what sets us apart!
(2) Reseller Program: One of the best things you can do as a company is to help others start their own company! And that is exactly what Mobile Universal does. Our Reseller Program provides users the platform to start their own mobile app company. No technical or software skills required. No need to hire developers. If you can drag and drop, you can develop an app. Via our reseller program, users have been developing apps and reselling it to their customers. It has worked wonders for entrepreneurs who always wanted to have their own mobile app company but did not have the technical know-how or thousands of dollars to hire programmers and develop technology. As such, the reseller program has been instrumental in the success of Mobile Universal.
What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at Mobile Universal?
Mobile Payments. Our focus is on developing a mobile payment tool that allows users to make purchases easily and quickly. Mobile payments would change the way retailers have been conducting business. A large clunky cash register, accepting cash and credit/debit cards, would now be replaced by digital technology in a very mobile-led fashion.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced during the startup process?
One biggest hurdle, something that is faced by other entrepreneurs as well, is that of “letting things go”. Some entrepreneurs tend to have a controlling nature and are involved in each and every aspect of startup operations. But once you hit a critical mass, it becomes extremely difficult to have such control over everything. So, it goes in direct conflict with your natural inclination and drive.
The lesson here is that in order to create true leverage and have a great organizational structure, you need to delegate work and evolve yourself into a managerial role.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
We are witnessing a major technological shift where desktop is becoming obsolete and everything is going mobile. So, it is a very exciting time for startups that are in the mobile industry. I believe the really exciting change we will witness soon enough is how we start using these devices to control and manage our lives beyond the handsets themselves. I mean, you would be able to use your mobile device as a wallet to pay for your shopping, as a remote control for your television, as a tracker to manage your fitness, as a key to unlock your front door, etc.
Think of any idea and you will realize that there is already an app for that. With all these apps and the ever so increasing capabilities of smartphones, a whole new world is going to be unlocked. Your mobile phone is going to be the most important gadget you would carry on you.
Finished reading? Check out Mobile Universal!