How two serial entrepreneurs are pitting their startup against Google and Amazon—the App Achhi storyAlok Soni
Pradeep Soundararajan and Avinash Nishant's app performance testing startup App Acchi is trying to take on giants like Google and Amazon who have products and services in the same domain.
"Do one thing and do it well." Pradeep Soundararajan, Co-founder, App Achhi, swears by these words of Jan Koum and keeps telling this to his product owner(s). That ‘one thing’ for Pradeep is app performance testing.
A user expects a mobile app to be speedy, responsive, and stable. According to a survey by Dimensional Research, 61 percent of users expect mobile apps to start within four seconds, while 49 percent want responses to inputs in two seconds. If an app crashes, freezes, or has errors, 53 percent of users will uninstall it. This (and more) makes it extremely important to test the performance of the app before the launch.
Founded in May 2015, App Achhi is an app performance testing platform that helps people to test their apps across devices, networks, and conditions.
Other players in the space include Amazon App Testing Service and Google Firebase. This means that App Achhi will have to fight the ‘power of defaults’ of the two giants.
YourStory spoke to Pradeep and a few app developers to understand the proposition better and see where App Achhi stands.
Testing meets technology
Pradeep, a tester and an independent consultant in his previous avatar, founded Moolya Testing in 2010, a niche testing services company. He came across the problem of app performance testing first when Moolya was building a product with an eye on scale.
Avinash Nishant, the other co-founder of App Achhi, has been programming since he was eight. He founded Shopnix, a SaaS e-commerce store which has scaled to millions of transactions a month. This makes App Achhi a place where testing (Pradeep) meets technology (Avinash). Pradeep says,
We also looked at Google and their Firebase Test Lab. Sorry and happy to say this, ‘Google should have built AppAchhi’.
The co-founders wanted to name the company Appachhi but people were confusing it with Apache. Pradeep adds, “So we decided to use the same word and make it easy. ‘Achhi’ is a Hindi word, which means ‘good’. So, App Achhi is like Good App.”
Incidentally, many people have told the company that if it wants to build a global brand, then it should avoid using the word Achhi. Avinash's response to it is: "So, what was Google?"
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How does it work?
Developers can upload their app or integrate to their CI (continuous integration) on App Achhi. The platform allows the product owners (developers and testers) to test without knowing how to automate or use the tools. App Achhi uses artificial intelligence (AI) powered bots and machine learning to test data. Pradeep says,
We enable decisions to be made faster. We have a lot of platforms in this space but most of them overload app developers and product owners with information that doesn't lead to decision making.
So far, so good. Or is it?
At first glance, it appears that App Achhi sources a part of its data from Fabric, which isn’t true. Pradeep confirms, “We are not using anything from Fabric. All data that we have published in our platform is what we have generated by running the tests on apps on real devices under real network conditions and real app performance data across those devices.”
YourStory spoke to a SaaS entrepreneur (who doesn’t want to be named) regarding App Achhi. He says,
The market is getting commoditised because Google and other platforms have provided automated solutions. With these platforms providing these services, the app performance testing becomes a part of the development. As a developer, I don’t want anything (additional like App Achhi) which increases my development time.
He argues that the alpha and beta channels in these (Google and Amazon) platforms help the developers get the user feedback before the launch. Moreover, if the performance matches the expectations, then the developer may not have enough reasons to continue his engagement on App Achhi.
A critical view
App Achhi has reported about 28,000 crashes and 100,000 app performance issues that developers can go about fixing right away without paying a single penny. They only pay App Achhi to test if they have fixed those issues.
Kausthubh Adhikari, an Android developer and lead, made some interesting points on the App Achhi platform:
- Lack of video recording option which is offered by Google Play Store at the moment. This feature is still under development.
- Unlike Amazon Testing (Amazon App testing) platform, there are no private dedicated locked devices used in App Achhi. This can be an inhibiting factor for banking apps and some enterprises (less than 10 percent), who want to feel secure/trusted, to go ahead with the platform.
- At the moment, App Achhi lacks integration to push a build out of the IDE to test and push the results back to the IDE for the developer. An integration withAndroid studio or having Crashyltics plugin could possibly solve this.
While there are some areas where App Acchi is still catching up, there are features which are a delight for a developer/product manager:
- Previous application build data for comparison helps in making KPIs.
- Chhi score (assigned to apps based on their overall performance) can be used to compare with other apps on the store.
- Option to get detailed testing like RAM usage, network usage, CPU usage.
- Custom test cases which can be defined by non-techies (custom flow can be defined in their dashboard).
There are tools like Crashlytics which are useful for monitoring performance post-production crash. However, App Achhi is in a slightly different space and comes in for pre-release testing.
Where’s the money?
Pradeep believes in letting the product do the talking. App Achhi has published thousands of app performance reports publicly. Pradeep believes that this is the best way to acquire clients for them.
Pradeep claims that App Achhi has been used by 350 app developers across 11 countries so far. Some of them are in paid plans which gives them deeper testing. App Achhi’s revenue models are driven by how deep someone wants to test an app. Pradeep says, “We have two large enterprises with enterprise licence. They have an on-premise installation of our platform which took only a day to install.”
The company has paying app developers and app owners from India, Spain, Dubai, and the UK. Their enterprise customers are from the Netherlands and Ireland. Pradeep says, “Working with Indie developers as well as enterprises, we know the range of budgets they have and what they want to know at what stage.”
Fund raising—what entrepreneurs think vs what VCs think
App Achhi has raised $250,000 from friends and families. The company has funneled in 80 percent of the money in building the product. The fund-raising exercise has, however, enlightened Pradeep to a new experience altogether. He says,
According to Indian VCs, early stage means doing $100,000 monthly recurring revenue (MRR). According to founders, early stage means ‘pre-revenue’ and ‘revenue trickle’. So, founders waste a lot of time pitching to VCs and lose crucial time in the really early stage of their startup.
Pradeep says his competitors in the US are raising $2.5 million to $4 million without revenues and selling the concept. He adds,
We have an option to relocate to the US to raise funds, but we can do it from India. It is possible. Someone will do it. We think it will be us. We are a horse that people will bet on because we are 10 metres away from the finish line and the rest of the horses are 100 metres away. It will be obvious for people to bet at that time.
The App Achhi team has 13 members at the moment with seven developers, two testers and one person each in customer engagement, operations and sales. They have a partner in Europe who is looking at Europe, North America, and South America.
Market, competition, and the road ahead
App Achhi’s target market includes app owners, enterprise apps, and indie app developers. The Android app testing market is pegged at $4.5 billion. Google and Amazon are default destinations for developers for app performance testing. Pradeep says that what Amazon and Google have built is by developers and for developers only; they have ignored the fact that there are others like product owners, testers and QA who also need to use this and make decisions. This is where App Achhi comes in.
App Achhi has tested and benchmarked 2.2 million apps so far and plans to publish many more app performance reports. They aim to take the number of indie app developers from 350 to 1,000 by yearend and onboard 10 more enterprise customers.