[Tech30] 3 ex-Flipkart employees play Hansel for your mobile appsAthira Nair
In the German folk tale Hansel and Gretel, the eponymous child protagonists are left to die in a forest. But Hansel, the older brother, leaves bread crumbs to find his way back home, thereby leading his sister Gretel to safety.
When Varun Ramamurthy, Parminder Singh, and Mudit Mathur developed the softwarewhich allows mobile developers to instantly deploy hotfixes to their live mobile apps, they named it Hansel. “Like in the fable, we look at the apps as Gretel. We leave bread crumbs so that Gretel comes back to a place of safety,” says Varun.
Hansel solves a problem which has annoyed every smartphone user at one time or another — right when you are browsing, placing an order, or having a chat, apps often tend to hang. The B2B enterprise software solves such issues during runtime, without the need for users to update the app.
Meet the co-founders
Hansel is the brainchild of three ex-Flipkart employees. Varun (29), an engineer-cum-MBA graduate from IIM Calcutta has product and marketing experience at Zynga and ABB. His co-founder Parminder (28), was in the iOS team at Flipkart, before which he was at Rediff. The third to join the team, Mudit, was a developer heading the core mobile team at Flipkart, and has also worked at ngpay and ValueLabs. Parminder is a graduate of IIIT Hyderabad, and Mudit of NIT Warangal.
Hansel, however, was not their first startup. Parminder and Varun left Flipkart in late 2014 to start up in the B2C sector to enable content streaming. Although it did not work out, it gave them the idea for Hansel. When Mudit left Flipkart in late 2015, the three came together for what became Hansel.
Bootstrapped and having heard multiple “no”s from investors in the previous venture, Varun believes they lead you to something far better. He says,
As long as you see the reasons for the ‘no’, you can push through and make it work.
As many entrepreneurs would agree, Varun believes that Bengaluru is great in terms of getting the right talent. Their eight-member team has techies with work experience at Flipkart, Amazon, Samsung, and InMobi. The founders believe that this will add to their expertise in mobile technology. Hansel got an undisclosed amount in seed funding in 2016 beginning from ex-Flipkart Chief People Officer Mekin Maheshwari and Endiya Partners’ Sateesh Andra.
Bringing up Hansel
Hansel went live as private beta in February 2016. In less than eight months, they have had a 29 million total install base with 20 clients. While still in the beta stage, Hansel already has a waitlist of a closed group of developers who will receive the Software Development Kit (SDK). The users include product managers.
But Hansel is not just a B2B SaaS business; it impacts the end user too. The toolkits can ‘Diagnose-Hotfix-Communicate, from a single dashboard’. Using this, developers can arrest crashes, fix any flaws in the code, and communicate the same to users during runtime. Hansel aims to help product owners correct a faulty experience on the spot, thus reducing complaints, social media rants, and customer churn.
Varun claims that Hansel now handles about 120 million sessions every day. Their hotfixes through the dashboard have reached more than four million devices already and have had a positive impact, he adds. They focus on commerce and content apps at the moment — including RedBus and FoodyBuddy — with more big names lined up.
Hansel’s revenue stream is based on the monthly active users that an app serves. At present, they are live on android and iOS platforms.
“We are soon building compatibility for games at the NDK level. When VR or AR starts, we want to be one of the earliest movers in that space. They need highly performing solutions,” says Varun.
Hansel is targeting 1,00,000 ARR in the short term, and $1 million ARR in a year. They want to shift focus from India to the US and Southeast Asia, which has a huge and mature market. “We want to be relevant on as many platforms and as many technologies as possible,” says Varun.
Why Hansel is a Tech30 startup
A beautiful solution to an irritating problem, Hansel is a deep tech company which will make app developers’ life easy. Mobile developers will now have the ability to push hotfixes without users having to update. The Hansel team has also been deeply entrenched in the startup space and has a keen sense of the ecosystem to make the product tick.
In India, Hansel does not seem to have much competition. However, US-based rollout.io provides similar services. Hansel is also competing with React Native, the open-source tech built by Facebook which needs you to build your entire app on that. [But it is expensive as it needs to be built from scratch.]
YourStory Tech 30 companies have been chosen based on technology, team, revenue, scalability, and market. However, Hansel is a category creator in itself, and has potential to scale.
On being part of the Tech30 startups, Varun says:
It is a great honour. I have seen previous years’ Tech30 companies and it feels special to be a part of that family. Out of more than 2,600 applications, getting to be in the final 30 is huge for us. From a business perspective, we get more visibility, discovery, credibility, and removal of possible scepticism, and more leads.
Hansel’s journey has just begun. We shall wait and see where their bread crumbs lead.