Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The making of an App - Namika V3

Just launched the third version of my iOS app, and I have to say that it has been a truly awesome learning experience!

The big idea at the time of writing version 1 was to simply get familiar with the mobile app space. I challenged myself to write an app within a month. I needed a concept that was easy to implement, yet purposeful. After exploring a couple of different ideas, I settled on "a baby naming app to enable soon-to-be parents to pick an awesome Indian name".

Analyzing the market - Competition:
A quick view of the market place revealed the following:

Number of apps in this category: 10
Number of reviews for the leader app : 76

Assuming a Download-to-Review ratio of 1% yields 7,600 downloads for the leader of this category!

Okay, so my app was clearly going to be an "also ran" in a category with a firmly established leader. The app store is merciless in this regard,  in some sense it creates a winner-take-all market with no prizes for the second. Clearly, the only way to make a dent in this category is to differentiate.

Sizing the Market
Moving on, the next step was to do some back-of-the-napkin market sizing calculations:

Total Addressable market (TAM):  1 billion plus (India's population)
Served Available Market (SAM): 10 Million plus (assuming a 1% market penetration).
Share of Market (SOM): 10,000 (Assuming 1% of SAM will download baby naming apps, and a markets share of 10% for Namika)

Assuming a conversion rate (download to purchase) of 10% yields an expected net revenue of about $1000.

Hmmm....not very encouraging!

So two show stoppers right of the gate:
a) Crowded market place with a clearly established leader
b) Poor revenue potential

I would have crushed the idea, but since this was all meant to be a learning exercise, I crushed the napkin instead and moved on.

A month later version one was born.

Namika  iOS App Version 1

Version 2 was brought to life not by design, but by coercion, with Apple wresting its arm and forcing all  iOS developers to upgrade their apps to iOS 7 look-and-feel.

Namika  iOS App Version 2

Version 3 was the real deal and involved a lot of learning!

Recall the two show-stoppers from earlier in the blog:
a) Crowded market place with a clearly established leader
b) Poor revenue potential

Version 3 in a sense was an antidote for both concerns. The product is substantially differentiated in the marketplace with a potential of creating a micro-niche, large enough perhaps to generate some profits.

For this version, I partnered up with a good friend of mine who helped with both ideation and execution.

By tracking and analyzing the names favored in previous versions, we saw a pattern - Indian parents were clearly leaning towards names with fewer syllables that were easier to pronounce. We validated our theory by surveying parents and researching on forums and blogs.

Sowmya Aji, an India Today columnist, wrote "Parents now keep in mind whether the child's name can fit into a passport form or can be pronounced by foreigners".

On Saffluence, a lifestyle blog dedicated to the south asian american community, Lakshmi Reddy ranked "ease of pronunciation" and "sounding like a western name", among the top three concerns.

Armed with this insight, we created a unique feature that enabled soon-to-be parents to listen to "western pronunciation" of Indian names for their babies.

Freemium Model or Per Unit Pricing

Up until version 2, I had been charging a $0.99 for the app, only because I wanted to keep the app really simple. I could have given the app away for free, but I would have never known that there were many willing parents who would gladly part with $0.99 for a better app experience!

This insight, that app experience was paramount, was not lost on us as we implemented version 3. We improved the app experience through a cooler look-and-feel and a nice splash, both features not typical for any of the other apps in this category. We also steered clear of in-app adverts to preserve the user experience.

With the playback feature holding some promise of creating a new micro niche, I intend toying with the freemium pricing model for version 3 of the app. As Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, said "The easiest way to get 1 million people paying is to get 1 billion people using". In-app purchase model reduces barriers to adoption,  locks the user within the app, eliminates competition and creates a virtual monopoly of sorts, enabling the app developer to command a premium price for incremental value.

I am eager to see if the new app generates any interest in this user community, and the wealth of learning that will come out of this experiment. Stay tuned!

Download Namika at:
Checkout app webpage at: