[Startup Bharat] Kochi-based Appmaker has clients from 35 countries, and aims to be Shopify for mcommerce
Two engineering students from Malappuram district in Kerala started Appmaker in 2013. The app builder, which lets you create quality native iOS and Android apps, has since then acquired clients in 35 countries.
Malappuram-based Saleeh K and Mohammed Anees, both now 25, met in 2013 when they were in the third year of their computer science engineering course. Both often worked as freelance app developers via platforms like Fiverr to earn some “pocket money”. Both were very passionate about software development and started to work on ideas together.
Saleeh recounts, “We had noticed a pattern in customers’ app requirements. Most features and specifications were almost the same. This made us think: why not develop an automated platform to ease building native apps? And that's how Appmaker.xyz was born.”
Appmaker – not to be confused with Google App maker, which is an internal tool - was bootstrapped in the initial days. Once Appmaker was built, Saleeh and Mohammed earned $500 in just one week. Their aim was one: to make Appmaker into an entity like Shopify, the world’s largest ecommerce software provider, for mcommerce.
Appmaker allows you to create native apps for Android, iOS, and Windows phone, in seconds. Their products Web2desk and PWA2APK are free of cost.
For two college students, time was the biggest challenge. Saleeh recollects an incident when a client had some issues on a night before their examination and the duo had to solve it.
But to this day, their motto remains the same: “The success of our clients’ apps is what matters the most.”
Today, Appmaker has more than 400 clients across 35 countries, including the Middle East the US, and Canada. Appmaker’s customers range from Odisha-based foodtech startup Berhampuriya to Australia-based Easy Grocery and Florida-based Underground Reptiles, an online seller of reptiles.
Appmaker is an app manager as well as an app builder. It helps manage native apps and can also be integrated into any existing app. Its tool extends to various use cases such as ecommerce, retail, media, events, and education. Appmaker’s primary focus is on converting ecommerce websites (built on platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento etc.) to native Android and iOS apps.
Appmaker started off with open source platform WooCommerce’s app development. Later, they extended their services by providing WordPress and ecommerce apps.
“Our tech’s USP is the native app experience at the lowest cost and the fastest pace. We ensure great quality and performance compared to our competitors TMStore and AppPresser. Appmaker is much more reliable and we provide complete native apps with a full feature set,” Saleeh claims.
Additionally, Appmaker’s core USP is App content management system (CMS), a dashboard to create and manage app updates in real time. This is extendable to different use cases and existing apps on Playstore/Appstore.
After graduation, the duo moved to Bengaluru for a short while as the startup ecosystem in Karnataka’s capital was much stronger than in Kerala. However, they soon realised that since their product was global, an online presence could get them clients from anywhere in the world. Saleeh explains,
“We are both from Kerala, and there were more opportunities and backups here. So we moved to the most technologically sound city in Kerala. We can vouch for Kochi as the best destination to start up.”
In 2017, Appmaker started working out of the workspace in Kerala Startup Mission's workspace (earlier Startup Village) in Kochi, where they were exposed to an advanced technical environment and met some great minds who became their mentors. Last year, Appmaker also raised a seed round from Kochi-based angel investors.
“Founders help each other here. We also have strong product-building communities such as Kerala Product Hunt, TinkerHub, Rethink Foundation, Get Set Code, Kochi Python, Kerala Ruby, Student Developer Society etc. With events like Seeding Kerala (a conference organised by Kerala Startup Mission and LetsVenture), there is more access to HNIs, investors, and mentors too,” Saleeh says.
Kochi is also home to Technology Innovation Zone (TIZ), said to be India’s biggest tech hub.
According to Saleeh, many of their customers complete over 60 percent of overall sales via mobile apps. “Altogether, our customers are processing several millions of dollars every month via app alone,” he tells YourStory.
Appmaker’s customers in the US and Canada include local ones which make up to $2 million annual revenue - 8-10 percent of this comes via the app. In the Middle East, their clients report 80 percent sales come from apps.
Appmaker allows you to create native apps for Android, iOS, and Windows phone, in seconds. Their products Web2desk and PWA2APK are free of cost. (It has paid option for extra features.) WooCommerce App, WordPress App, WebApp, and custom app are all paid services.
Monthly payment is for the app CMS, which enables users to make app updates on the go. Saleeh claims that Appmaker has seen 10 percent monthly growth in this category.
According to Saleeh, Appmaker, which has a team of 10 professionals in growth, coding, design, and development, is profitable now, and will expand to more markets.
Building on changes
The Appmaker platform is a result of various iterations. When it was first launched, Appmaker only had the Android app category. However, as their customers in the Middle East increased in number and asked for iOS, the team built that.
The India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) expects India’s internet economy to double from $125 billion in April 2017 to $250 billion by 2020, majorly backed by ecommerce. According to its data, the total number of internet users in the country is expected to be around 829 million by 2021 (from 560 million as of September 2018). No doubt, ecommerce will be led by mcommerce in the country with 1.4 billion population.
Building on this growth, Appmaker aims to enable local and niche ecommerce players to compete with retail apps like Flipkart and Amazon. In fact, Saleeh says that in a year, they want to get a least 1 percent of all B2C ecommerce sites on mobile apps.
Appmaker’s customers agree. Mumbai-based niche ecommerce player ‘Groot Gadgets’ says, “The Push Notification system provided by Appmaker.xyz allowed us to send our offers in real time to our customers and thereby helped us achieve increased purchase targets.”
Recognition for hard work
In a short period, Appmaker has garnered quite a few accolades.
Two years ago, it was selected to pitch to US-based startup accelerator YCombinator. Although they didn’t make it to the final round, Appmaker got some great insights. Says Saleeh,
"We then started working more closely with our e-commerce clients, who used our platform to grow their business. We helped them use our growth tools on mobile."
In 2018, Appmaker was among the 13 startups selected from India by the Canada government for the Next Big Idea (NBI) contest. Zone Startups India, which organised the NBI contest, is an implementation vehicle for the Indo-Canada Bilateral Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme for 2018-19. Winners get a chance to tap into the North American market.
Appmaker claims that its product Web2Desk got trending on the Product Hunt website in June 2018, and made it to be ‘Product of the Day’ globally. Appmaker, which is closing this year with half a million dollars in revenue, is considering raising VC funding next.
Saleeh and Mohammed plan to continue in Kochi, to grow Appmaker into the Shopify for m-commerce. “The product-building culture (maker culture) is what Kerala will witness in the coming days,” they say confidently.