In a tete-a-tete with YourStory.in, co-founders of MyCityWay, Archana Patchirajan, Sonpreet Bhatia and Puneet Mehta talk about their plans for MyCityWay in India. MyCityWay is the winner of TechSparks 2011 App4India.Edited excerpts:
Tell us in detail about the much talked about MyCityWay India app?
MyCityWay India is a real-time, user driven, geo-aware urban reference app for mobile devices. Users can find local restaurants, shopping malls, hospitals, events, parking locations, utility services, WiFi locations, book movie tickets and much more - all from a single, easy to use application. As an all-inclusive mobile app, MyCityWay India also offers users the ability to interact with business locations or services, read or write consumer reviews. The app is currently available for 5 major Indian cities Mumbai, Chennai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and we will be adding 11 other major Indian cities to our platform by end of 2011. MyCityWay, based in NYC and founded by three Indians, has launched apps for 50 plus international cities. The NYC version of the app was the winner of the New York BIG apps contest in 3 categories. The platform has around 3 million users across the world and the Indian version of the app was launched in late May 2011 and has already crossed 1,50,000 downloads in two months.
Are there any similar apps in Indian market? What differentiates you from other players?
In India we don't find any other similar free app that promises to have such versatile features. From the user experience point of view, we are known for making products that the common person can really "use" and integrate in their lifestyle. Our apps have proven to be the one stop solution for the needs of a city dweller as well as a tourist. MyCityWay is an app that is used by users of all demographics. We have the ability to marry location, intent, time of the day and other decision making factors with user profile to come up with the most suitable suggestions for our users.
Can you please tell us in detail about the features of the app? Which feature are you most excited about?We are currently present on iPhone, Android and Blackberry and are planning to roll out a version in Nokia very soon. MyCityWay India is an app with all the Indian cities built within it. So, it's both personalized for your own city as well as it gives a platform to plan out trips to various cities across the nation. A few strong features of our app include; more than 40 different categories which help the user to drill down into what he exactly wants, detailed pages for the businesses/places from where the user could navigate further to the website of the respective business, contact them via phone/email or even find the shortest route to that place from his current location.
We are extremely excited about the social aspect that we are planning to introduce. It's going to be a fresh, new and loving look of MyCityWay and I'm sure our users would just love it. We say this with gusto because we don't believe in out dated reviews. Only reviews from trusted sources, say a friend's social graph would help the user to better determine from the choices he has. And this social feature with the power of MyCityWay's exploration capabilities is bound to attract some genuine user generated content.
How much time did it take to build the app?
MyCityWay's first app NYC Way took just 40 days to build. Of course it was 20 hours a day of work for the entire team, but because of their engineering backgrounds and of course the spirit of entrepreneurship led them to design a platform where new cities could be added, and the end to end process along with testing was completed within anywhere from a week to 10 days. But India was a very special experience, because unlike in the US, the availability of rich and reliable content was scarce. Though we had partnered with some of the major players within various information domains in India, the raw data which was procured required a marathon of data mining activities and after few levels of filtering and verification we were able to provide the Indian user with the quality data he deserves.
Are you planning to expose APIs to build apps into MyCityWay?
Yes, we are already working on that.
How did the idea come about? Any personal experience that triggered you to start MyCityWay?
Necessity is the mother of invention(smiles). I have lived in NYC and having been able to fully utilize the potential of smart phones and the apps built for it, I felt that “app” was a very viable medium to enhance everyday lives of New Yorkers. We wanted to build an app which will give users the power to choose what he wants to do next. It'll make his every decision, right from the simplest of "What time is the next subway train?" to "Where do I take her for that very special date?". It gives you everything that you could possibly require from your city. It's about exploring your city, the easy way.
On which platform was the app first launched?
Apple iPhone was the first platform we launched MyCityWay on.
Between Android, iPhone & Blackberry, which platform leads to highest number of downloads?Our iPhone apps are the ones which drive the highest number of downloads across the world. In India, it is a healthy mix of iOS and Android, followed by Blackberry.
When is the Symbian version of MyCityWay expected to be launched?
We are planning to come out with a Symbian version of MyCityWay by November 2011.
Are all your multi-platform releases synchronized (in terms of features, releases dates etc)? Have you explored the possibility of using cross-platform toolkits such as Appcelerator or PhoneGap?
Any new interesting features around the corner?
We'll transform MyCityWay into a platform where all the social features we are planning to introduce will integrate. The user will be given all the options, his want for exploration and navigation would be powered by the rich data of MyCityWay and his need for geo-social gaming would be complemented by Clingle! We are planning to be in at least 60 locations in India by 2011. Clingle along with the existing MyCityWay apps would change the way the user connects to people and places.
So, how many downloads so far for the Indian version?
With all the three platforms together (iPhone, Android and Blackberry) we have crossed over 1, 60, 000 downloads for MyCityWay India as of July 2011.
The app is free for users to download. How do you monetize currently?
Monetization is through fee based revenue via our strategic partners for the bookings and reservations done via our app.
Any plans to monetize other than through the existing channel?
The future monetizing plans do include revenue generation by promoting ads in the app and by partnering with businesses for promoting city based deals. We are planning to build a smart hyper local recommendation engine which will combine the user's intent plus location and the most important of all, timing. We believe that it's about targeting the right people at right place and at right time. This will also serve as a "least effort and maximum hit" platform for businesses to attract new customers as well as retain their loyal ones. We see MyCityWay India to be the wallet in your phone. We'll allow you to book railway, movie and even air tickets from within the app.
Did you put in any efforts to market the app?
Till date we have not had to spend much on marketing - all the growth has been organic and driven by the MyCityWay user community. The popularity and usage that our app has earned is through sheer word of mouth. People all throughout the world have been using our app and recommending it to their friends via various social media channels like FB and Twitter. There was this instance when a particular user had used our NYC Way and immediately wrote to us requesting to cover London, her home town. MyCityWay has been creating evangelists all over the globe - from the first week of launch.
Having started off with MyCityWay in NYC and then moving on to India, what are the challenges you face as a mobile app entrepreneur in India?In India, our major challenge was data. As a startup, at times the resources at disposal both monetary and human are extremely limited. Our team had to put in a lot of efforts to mine and tailor the data to maintain MyCityWay standards in India. We wanted to give the same seamless experience that a New Yorker gets, to the Indian user. In an entrepreneur's pursuit of perfection, one has to face a lot of new challenges when entering new markets. That too in a young market in app space like India where the smartphone usage and the knowledge of applications is just catching up, one is bound to be bounced off a lot. But when all those are taken by one's stride and proceeded, India has a lot of opportunities!
Tell us about the kind of feedback that you received from users so far. Any interesting instances that you would like to share with our readers?
The responses that we've been receiving have been overwhelming! MyCityWay's NYC Way iPhone app already has 80 detailed reviews and over 8000 ratings on the app store. Considering an extremely small percentage of active users leave reviews or ratings - that's a big number. We constantly receive e-mails from users requesting a similar app for their cities. Such emails and requests fuel us to expand further. Users find it hard to believe that we are giving such features for free, but like Twitter and Facebook we'll always be free for the user(smiles).
Why don’t you want to come up with a paid version of the app?
We have planned for various other ways to monetize the app by bypassing the option of taxing the end user. We might work with partners where we could jointly monetize the platform in creative ways. If any of the telcos or OEM companies have interesting ideas around this, we would love to hear from them.
Do you think privacy concerns will play a role in deploying your local-social offering? How do you plan to address that?
We don't think so, because we have given the entire control to the users via privacy settings
Anything else that you want to share with the readers of YourStory.in?
TechSparks and Yourstory.in give entrepreneurs the essential boost that he requires to proceed and pursue his dreams. We really adore the way YourStory.in has conducted TechSparks and your recognition of technology. Like a Mashable and TechCrunch, Yourstory.in is the platform for entrepreneurs in India to showcase their dream to the world. Way to go!
YourStory.in’s Technology Editor Sriram. V. Iyer’s Take
My City Way India, is not just a simple app. It is a kind of ‘Super-App’, which provides functionalities of over 30 apps within itself, and more features are getting added! Opening the app presents a desktop kind of view with a lot of functionalities embedded as mini-apps/widgets. (Apple banned a lot of apps, in early 2010 for having their own desktop within their apps)
There are tons of useful things like events, deals, movies, shops, coffee places that a user can search for based on his location. The data has been quite accurate as far as we have used (in Bangalore). We appreciate their eye-to-detail and also a very consistent interface across various facilities provided.
They have plans to tackle the BIG problem of going local and social, and they have all the right capabilities to address the challenge. We wish them all the very best, and we highly recommend this app to everyone!