TheAppLabb CEO, Kundan Joshi featured on the front page of The South Asian News
Read the full article of Kundan’s interview for The South Asian News, published on February 27th of 2015.
1. Tell us what gave you the idea to start TheAppLabb? And give us an insiders point of view about then and now.
The advent of smartphones has changed the world in a big way. Smartphones now act as our full time companions, problem solvers, navigators, communicators, educators, entertainers, organizers, and so much more. Smartphones also give us an ability to imagine possibilities, of changing others lives, making them simpler, more efficient, more fun through the world of apps. I got fascinated and driven to explore those possibilities by venturing into the app world. Being an engineer, I was a problem solver by nature. During my time at my previous business venture, Joshi Inc, a digital agency, I enjoyed pitching products ideas to my clients, to solve their existing operational problems. One fine day, I realised that product development of innovative mobile apps is what truly excites me, considering its potential and the abilities of mine and my team’s. So we pivoted, and TheAppLabb was born!
Before starting TheAppLabb, our team already had some experience in designing and developing mobile apps, so it was just a matter of proving ourselves. Our skills, knowledge and expertise kept growing with every product that we designed and engineered. Today, after having delivered several hundred apps, we are hailed as industry experts and leaders in strategy, design and development of mobile apps, having served some of the biggest brands and most innovative start ups. Apart from our service offerings, we also have our own suite of products, such as TheEventsApp, TheRetailApp and TheLearnApp among others. Through our initiative – StartupLabb, we also invest in several early stage startups, to empower entrepreneurs to make their dream ideas into reality. Today, TheAppLabb stands at over 50 employees, with offices in Toronto, New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Mumbai. From the industry perspective, while the potential existed when we started, today, it has actualized. With 90% of North American adults being owners of cell phones, 90% of whom are within an arm’s length of their phones at all times, the possibilities of impacting their lives through smartphones and apps are endless.
2. You’ve been associated in multiple businesses so would you consider yourself to be a pro at knowing what works and what doesn’t in today’s technologically driven market?
There are several factors that determine the viability of a product. Does an app or a technology serve as a solution to a genuine problem? What is the depth or breadth of the problem and that of the solution? Is it a unique idea to a particular market segment? If there are competitors, what are the differentiators of the idea? How big is the market size? What percentage of that market can the product capture? What are growth and scalability possibilities? What is the revenue model? Based on these and several other questions, the chances of user adoption and profitability can be determined. I and my team are experts are guiding a product idea through all these validations, and using our experience to determine the chances of an idea’s success. Once validated, we have a fool proof process to create a strong product strategy, a beautiful user experience and design and engineer a great product. User and stakeholder feedback is taken at every stage of the process to ensure the acceptability of the product, followed by a strong marketing strategy and execution. Our strong process, depth of knowledge and experience and great intuition does make me and my team at TheAppLabb a PRO at determining and executing a successful product in today’s technologically driven market.
3. Your organization develops apps for web and mobile. What’s the difference and how do they work in their own realm?
Apps stand for software programs that are designed and developed to fulfill a particular purpose. Platform for the app depends on how users of the app prefer to use it. Once usability is determined, our organization can develop apps on any platform, whether it be mobile devices like iphone, ipad, android, blackberry or windows or web or desktop or even wearables like google glass, iwatch, and internet of things. Skill sets required to develop apps on each of these platforms is different, so we constantly hire the brightest minds to engineer best products.
4. You mentioned that App Labb looks at start-ups, in a given day how many people approach your company? And how do you differentiate between mundane or has been to saying Eureka! this is a brilliant idea!
On an average day, about 40 to 50 startups approach us from all across the world. Our inbound business development experts go through a pre-qualification process to distil these leads. The filtered leads are then put through validations mentioned earlier, so that proper ground work is done before we start building a product, as we want to ensure that all products we create are set for success. The Eureka feeling is part process and part intuition. Sometimes you just know in the gut that it is a brilliant idea, and sometimes you dont. But regardless of the gut feeling, the process of validation usually determines the chances of an idea’s success. Being an engineer, process is very important to me. If I think the idea is brilliant, but actual users of the product don’t think so, it is pointless.
5. Talk to us about establishing your company globally, and what exactly are your goals in each of these markets?
While our head office is in Toronto, we are constantly opening up offices and forging partnerships across the world. Apart from Toronto, we now have presence in New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Mumbai. In the next year we plan to extend our presence to San Francisco, Middle east and Europe. Main goal in expanding our presence is to cater to these markets, whether enterprise or startups, through our services and products.
6. Your clients are reputable, and industry leaders in their own right. How did you market your organization to them?
Our though leadership is our strongest marketing tool, which drives most of our customers to us. Our inbound marketing channels include Search Engine marketing and Social media marketing. We also have a strong outbound sales team that directly approaches our potential clients. It is very important for us to educate our clients, evaluate their product idea and provide our thought leadership to ensure that the foundation of a good product has been built before we take on a project.
7. Having said that, tell us about your roster of clients, and how you’ve helped them succeed? Give us the scoop with real success stories
On the enterprise side, our clients include the likes of Unilever, Samsung, Dell, Rogers, Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian International AutoShow, Rogers, Rapala, Ontario Real Estate Association, World Media Festival, among others. The first app we built was for the AutoShow, which made it easy for the event audience to navigate through the show as well as participate in contests. The app helped increase the customer engagement and outreach by over 1200%. While our employee contest app for Dell application provides the sales agents at Dell Canada to compete in a trivia game, to improve product knowledge, and boost their motivation via gamification, which has resulted in increased sales for the company. On the startup side, we have helped build several innovative products from Locawoka – which enables users to outsource their daily chores, to 42 Sports – which enables sports fans to engage with each other and with players. One such startup, Urbery, which I co-founded, is disrupting the grocery sector. People can order their grocery online, and get it delivered to their home in less than 2 hours. It has received great acceptance and feedback from our customers, while being featured by various media outlets like Canadian Grocer and BlogTO.
8. Would you like to present your business model, and the revenue generated in the past one year?
For our services, we work on fixed price or dedicated team models, while for our white label products we charge licensing fees. Startups that we invest in have various business models, from paid apps, to in-app purchases, to ad revenues to direct transactions. Our company has been growing by 400% consistently in the last 4 years.
9. How aligned are you in your thinking with the Mark Zuckerberg, Kevin Systrom or Ben Silbermann? Or how different?
In similarities, I think we all are passionate about what we do, as well as passionate for building innovative products with great user experience. We all intend to stay true to our purpose and we all care about building strong teams and partnerships. Difference would be that my net worth is not in 9 figures yet, but I intend to bridge that gap soon!
10. Does your organization just help launch the prototype, or are you also looking to sell the ideas for billions of dollars?
Depends on our mode of engagement. For our clients, we help them launch the prototype as well as continue to help them launch the newer versions of their product in an iterative cycle. For the startups that we invest in, we certainly intend to sell them for billions of dollars!
11. When hiring personnel at TheAppLabb, what are the chief characteristics you look for? And how many employees do you currently have in Toronto, and globally
We like to hire people who have both the requisite skills and the right outlook. Apart from that, it is important for them to be passionate about technology, have a sense of good user experience, up to date with tech trends, an appetite for constant learning, and have an entrepreneurial flair. We intend to keep our company as lean as possible by hiring great people. In the long run, our people will always be our main competitive advantage. Currently, we have over 50 employees globally.
12. What do you think are the pros and cons in a world driven by mobile apps? Do you think that even though it’s called ‘the social network’, there is very little of human interaction
There are several pros. Ability to communicate seamlessly with family, friends and coworkers; ability to be connected at all times, to find any information that you need; to increase your efficiency and accessibility by finding nearest restaurants, or book a cab or order groceries; to entertain ourselves by music, videos or games. Like anything else, excessive use has its disadvantages. Smartphones and apps are meant to support your life, so they should be treat as that.
13. Do you have a message for the youth in this regard?
Balance is very important with everything in life. It is important to live in the present moment and enjoy real life human interactions. So focus on the person you are having a conversation with or the task at hand, and let smartphones serve you as an aide and not a distraction.
14. And finally, what drives you as an entrepreneur? Also, let us know what the future holds for TheAppLabb, maybe an app that can be used in space?
The ability to do what I am passionate about day in and day out, which is to find and create, innovative and creative solutions to problems. The ability to help others succeed, my clients, partners, my team, entrepreneurs. To stay true to our vision of building an everlasting industry leading technology company, to solve problems, make human experience easier & make a difference in the world. These are my drivers as an entrepreneur.
At TheAppLabb, we continue to grow as an innovation hub in the field of mobile technology. We work on great ideas on a daily basis, and will keep on building innovative products. We will also continue to invest in high potential startups to ensure that driven entrepreneurs with great ideas are able to build equally great products. The future holds endless possibilities, I am just excited to be a part of the journey!
You can also view the article at the South Asian News website.