We at YourStory.in recently caught up with Anenth, co-founder, Ideophone, well known for their mobile app, Suruk, that lets users monitor the duration, tariff and distance of the trip while traveling in auto-rickshaw/taxi.In this exclusive with YourStory.in, entrepreneur Anenth talks about Suruk’s offerings, differentiators, and future plans.
Tell us in detail about the features of Suruk. Which feature are you most excited about?
Suruk is a handheld digital meter for autorickshaws and taxis. It displays the distance traveled, the fare and allows the user to decide midway whether the fare meter is tampered with. If the meter is way off, they can just get down and take another one. Users will also be able to rate the driver and be able to know the past conduct of the driver from other Suruk users.
It also has a routefinder on a map. We’re personally excited about the metering part considering the novel use of GPS technology, but, there are a number of users who are fans of driver feedback and route finder.
Compelling use case, especially for the urban Indians. Are there any other similar apps available in the market? What differentiates you from them?
There are a few players like Tuk Tuk meter that have the digital meter feature of Suruk. But, Suruk has driver rating and route finder features apart from the digital meter. Moreover, thanks to our current base of 30,000 plus users, we have a rich database of driver feedback and route logs to provide a better experience for our users. This provides a unique distinction to Suruk that can not be replicated easily. Other differentiators are the customizability of Suruk that has helped us gain a significant number of users from other countries.
How much time did it take to build the app?
We took 3 months, though we keep updating the app once in a few months.
Did any personal experience trigger the creation of Suruk? When and where did you come up with the first prototype of the app?
Back in 2009, Sundar(founder) used to commute approximately 22 kms every day. He went through the agony of faulty metres and rude auto drivers almost every day. He then thought of creating a mobile app to detect meter tampering. He got in touch with the rest of the team(myself and Sandeep) from IIIT-B and after meeting up once in a coffee shop, we decided on a high-level design. We built the application keeping Nokia's 'Calling All Innovators' contest in mind. We collaborated online using SharingGlass plugin of Skype and built the prototype in a month. While we didn’t win the contest, we got covered on the front page of Bangalore Mirror and that got us thousands of users. We eventually won the mBillionth award in 2010.
Why did you start with Symbian platform to begin with over others?When we started building Suruk in 2009, we wanted to target a platform that would give us a wider reach in India. We chose JavaME as it was supported by all Symbian phones(Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung) which were quite popular in India at that time.
Sure. But now with users drifting away from Symbian, do you have any plans to launch for other platforms?
We recently launched the Android version of Suruk. We are looking at targeting iOS platform next.
We see that the app is available for free download. So, how do you monetize?
We don’t monetize Suruk app currently. We want to keep it free for our 30,000 plus users. But, from the popularity of Suruk, we gained significant traction for our other premium apps like One Touch SOS. We track valuable data insights, we believe that this will help us monetize in future. Going forward, we will add advertising as a monetizing option.
Going forward are you planning to come up with a paid version of the app?
We wish to keep Suruk free, while offering premium products that complement it.
Any new features around the corner?
We are planning to integrate the driver conduct feature with a Facebook app. This would enable a wider dispersal of driver feedback information as well as for non-Suruk users to contribute to our feedback loop.
What is your current number of downloads across stores? With the Android version launch, do you have a target in mind?
We have about 30,500 downloads for our JavaME version across various appstores(Nokia Ovi, GetJar and Aircel Pocket Apps). With our Android launch, we are hoping to hit 50,000 downloads soon.
How do you market the app to relevant audience?
Due to its compelling benefit for commuters, word of mouth has been the primary way people got to know about Suruk. We’re also covered by number of newspapers and Tech Blogs. We actively use our social media channels to interact with users.
What are the challenges you face as an entrepreneur in mobile app space?
Reaching out to the target audience with the current platform fragmentation has been our biggest challenge. Two years back, for an App targeted at Indian audience, we had to build a JavaME version first. But, now it is Android. Another biggest challenge is monetization. Though Indians are willing to pay for apps, the payment channels are not very well established.
Would you like to share with us any interesting feedback that you have received so far?
We have heard a lot of kind words and appreciation from a lot of our users. Though Suruk was targeted at Indian audience, we released the app word-wide in Nokia Ovi Store. To our surprise, large number of downloads came from Spain, and a Spanish blog reviewed the app. They wanted a Spanish version of Suruk. It made us release our next app (One Touch SOS) in Spanish and German.
Finally, anything else that you would like to share with the readers of YourStory.in?
Though we initially targeted what we call as “Bajaj Countries” - India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. - the market surprised us with a significant percentage of downloads from countries like Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Turkey apart from India. Overall, we have users in 138 countries now. Please see the download distribution map below (the colour intensity indicates the percentage of downloads).Another tidbit we wanted to share is the story of how we named our app as Suruk. Though we targeted Bangalore initially, we wanted a language-independent name. Since Sundar is interested in linguistics, he came across a class of words called Ideophones, which sound like what they mean. Suruk is an ideophone connoting diligence and shrewdness in Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu!
Check out their website for further details. If you are from Bangalore, you might as well want to download Suruk!
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