Sureshkumar is the CEO of MacAppStudio. MacAppStudio is a specialized mobile application development company that develops a multitude of applications with expertise in Native and cross-platform applications. They are Intel BlackBelt Software Developers with a host of in-house products and have teamed with tech giants to create bold, beautiful apps that work seamlessly.
1. Tell us about your early career.
Me and my co-founder, George are childhood friends - we’ve known each other since class 3 and we then went on to study engineering in different colleges. Post engineering, we both went onto work at top MNCs - George went on to work in the US while I worked in Noida and Bangalore for various other companies. We worked for about 6 to 8 years, and we were soon met with our first problem. We decided to build an app for this problem and solve it ourselves, so we got straight to it. They say that “it’s enough if your product picks up, it’ll make a million dollars”, so once the app was developed, it was ready for sale. I was in Singapore when the first sales transaction for our product was made - and it was by a customer who believed in us right from day one. That gave us a push in the right direction and we started making apps to solve day-to-day problems that the two of us were facing. For example, we made an app to keep our contacts organized because we found it difficult to skim through all our contacts everyday; we made an app called ‘I Alarm’ to set daily alarms, and George made an app called ‘The Daily Bible’ - our hobby was to build apps to solve day-to-day problems. Our hobby gave us a goal to work towards and that’s how MacAppStudios happened.
2. How did the idea/concept for your business come about?
We made an app called Habit. Habit was a very simple app built with the sole purpose of helping people either make or break their habits. We had customers from Japan and Europe who used Habit to tackle their habit of smoking, but there was this one particular customer with whom Habit struck a more personal cord - he thought that it was his determination that had helped him quit smoking, but the app had also helped him break the streak. Soon after our first customer, we had a few more customers who had completely quit smoking post using Habit. Habit was touching lives in its own small ways.
As we were building apps, we realized that there were people out there who had problems similar to ours and were finding ways to solve it. Our apps were solutions for them and when we got to know that our app was able to touch their lives, it gave us a different feel, it encouraged our ideas and drove us to do better. Working on these apps gave us excitement, ambition and new ideas, the business plan actually came into place much later.
3. How was your first year into the business?
We were part of a worldwide challenged organized by Intel - you’ll be given a title to create an app and your app will compete with other apps from development companies across the globe. We stood in the first place and won a cash prize of $15,000; then there was a competition for the title of ‘Best App to Stay Informed’ for which we won the first place. There was a third challenge as well, in which we did not participate because we thought that we were winning too much. This gave us the time to focus on the apps that we were building. The two of us rigorously took part in a lot of challenges and we’d won enough accolades without even formally launching our business!
We were firm that we wanted to make profit from our products alone right from day one, so we put aside all the prize money that we’d won and we got straight to working. Initially during the early years, it was just the two of us working full-time, earning good salaries and we were building these apps only post our working hours.
4. How was the company’s growth during the initial years?
There were many people who told us not to get into app development because it’s a difficult field to survive in, but we were very determined to make our mark in that space and so we went ahead all guns blazing. Should we get into app development? Will the industry accept our products? Will we face competition from other similar apps? We faced many such obvious questions. When we started out, there were hundreds of app developers out there but we did not let that bother us. Honestly, it is important to be firm with regard to your product understanding, but had we looked back to answer these questions, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are now. We were very sure of our products and tech and we went ahead with this firm belief and it has helped us in the long run.
We’re a bootstrapped company building apps for the last five years and people have known about us only since the last year or so!
5. What marketing strategy did you follow?
Our brief was very simple - we wanted to create apps that make people’s lives easier, simpler and happier. Our marketing strategy is probably the most easiest one that you’ll find. I act as the CEO - I take care of Design, Brand Value and Vision of the company. George, my co-founder is the CTO. He’s a highly technical person and takes care of the technical aspects like the code, functionality, working and development. Our team also helps us with the design and development. Apart from this, we have third core member, God - who is our CMO. We have a very strong set of core values and principles and we make sure that we work and stand by those principles. Whether it’s a project proposal that we’re getting, whether it’s an app that needs improvement, we leave it to our CMO to handle. From the very beginning, this is the strategy that we’ve followed and it’s worked wonders for us.
6. What is ‘success’ to you? How would you define it?
During our initial days, when it was only the two of us, we made close to 48 apps in a span of five days. To the outside world it could look like we’ve already been successful, but to us we hadn’t achieved too much. The world might say that you’re the best, but the day you know that you’ve worked hard for something, the time you can confidently hold your head up high and say that you are the best, that is success.
7. What according to you is the key to success?
Sheer determination and hard work leads to success. Have a strong set of values and ethics and stand by it come what may. And competition in your field shouldn’t scare you, it should encourage you to be better and do better. While it is important to be aware of your competition, you shouldn’t let that impact you in a negative way.
8. What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learnt?
Whenever we’re about to begin work on something new, there are 3 situations that we always look back at and consider, - We build an app, we think it’ll work and we pitch it - that app will never work - We’ll think of a brand new concept, build an app around it and hope it’ll become a hit - it won’t pick up at all - Apple Watch had just come out, and we had an idea for a WatchOS app. We build an app for it thinking we’ll be the first ones there, and just as we’re about to push it live, there’s already 40,000 other people who’ve built apps for WatchOS.
In a bootstrapped company, you might think that one particular moment is going to be the defining moment that you’re after, but that’ll never be it. Even when if it’s not going to be that winning moment, you have to keep pushing, working hard and break boundaries everyday.
9. Tell us some quote(s) that you live by.
The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are actually the ones that do. - Steve Jobs
10. What are some of the toughest things that you’ve had to face while setting up?
When we started out, we bought a small office place for Rs. 10,000 where the ventilation was minimal. We put aside the prize money that we’d won and worked to gain profits. At that time, it was only me and George working. We worked on an app and sold it - we used the profits we gained from that sale to buy a fan for our office space. It took us one month to buy a fan, two months to buy an inverter and five months to buy an AC. Being a bootstrapped company we worked rigorously to make profits out of our sales. We had a stock of apps that we’d built and we never pitched them to investors. Our office space, the electronics that we bought for the office all of it were funded through the profits that we made from our app sales.
We never hired employees till we crossed the three year mark. The first three years is the make or break time for any startup - and we didn’t want to affect the lives of our employees’ in case our startup failed. And for the same three years, we hadn’t tasted success; there were small successes but all of it were short-lived. Our first breakthrough happened through an app that we built called Money Bag and the second breakthrough happened when Intel approached us for a project - that was the first service project that we worked on. We are a product company at heart and we only embarked on services to get some steady cash during that time.
11. In the face of adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
We narrowed down our focus only to develop apps for Mac OS. There were already too many apps for iOS and Android and we didn’t want to get into that space. We have our own products, and then we also do services. We hold work on our own products and then switch to services. If ever there is a lean period we work on improving our products.
For us, an app is like a sapling. You have to keep watering the sapling till it grows. No app is big or small for us. We don’t take more than 4 days to work on an app, and we take a maximum of 25 days to develop it. Development time is longer to accommodate changes, fixes and new features that the client wants. Whatever we’re faced with, even in the toughest of situations we stick to the faith we have in our products. We believe that our app has the best UI/UX and it’s coded with precision to work seamlessly - the faith and belief that we have on our products keeps us going. We believe that results are directly proportional to the faith. Products are going to be good as long as the work that goes into it is perfect.
12. What advice would you give youngsters choosing your field?
There’s only one thing that I’d like to tell this generation, don’t listen to anyone, just follow your heart. If Mark Zuckerberg had squashed his idea because MySpace and Hi5 were already around, then Facebook wouldn’t have been born. If you’ve got a clear idea, along with the drive and passion to see it through, then you will definitely be successful in what you choose to do. Follow your heart, follow your passion and always keep your head held up high.