MUBBLE – Startup of the month

 In Entrepreneur Stories, Interviews, Startups, TECH STARTUP OF THE MONTH
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Startup: MubbleIndustry: TelecomFounded in: March 2015Founders: Ashwin Ramaswamy, Pranav Jha, and Raghvendra VarmaTeam strength: 30Website: Mubble – your personal phone bill tracker. Mubble is a pathbreaking Prepaid Data Anaytic company which helps prepaid mobile connection users track their telecom spends and data usage.Mubble is a path-breaking Android application which helps prepaid mobile connection users track their telecom spends and data usage. It is India’s first app in the category of Prepaid Tracking & Data Metering, Prepaid users in India face a multitude of problems. One of the simplest descriptions of these problems came summarized by a user of Mubble – “Where did my balance vanish?!”.Mubble sets out to help prepaid users solve this problem. Mubble enables consumers to track and automatically update their prepaid pack balances, monitor and save a history of their pack deductions & mobile data usage, give alarms on pack expiry & call rate changes, give recommendations on best packs to recharge with and also enables recharge via the app! Mubble is an absolute must-have Prepaid SIM companion app, meant to help each and every prepaid user in india be in complete control of their SIMs Incepted in April 2013 under Mubble Networks, the company is based out of Bangalore and is driven by the leadership of founders Ashwin Ramaswamy, Pranav Jha and Raghvendra Varma.

The story of starting up

If a customer decides to go the extra mile and have their operators inform them on these things, they need to dial into complex IVRS, self-service menus. Adding to the disadvantages, prepaid users need to pay when they speak to a customer care representative; toll-free numbers are generally inactive or not helpful. Hence, Mubble was ideated to provide hassle-free and transparent ways of keeping track of mobile usage.Because the founders had worked in the telecom and technology industries, they possessed both insider and outsider perspectives on the problems most users generally face. So they decided to tackle it through a mobile app, built for the masses. They launched their beta version in late October 2014 under the name ‘Balance Inbox’. Then, based on the positive feedback and constructive criticism they received, they relaunched the app in March 2015 under the brand name ‘Mubble’.Since their inception, Mubble has gone from zero to three lakh users, and has scanned over 20 million messages from telecom operators. In the process they have gained many insights into the problems that users face.

Stats and figures

Mubble has over 3 million downloads, with over 40% of the users accessing the app in their mother tongue. Mubble uses patent pending On-Device-Analytics technology to decode how users use their smartphone with respect to mobile data. Their unique privacy friendly approach allows to create custom analytics reports for the clients, using anonymous data, thereby generating valuable insights for businesses.Almost 95 percent of Indian mobile users are on prepaid mobile plans, and a vast majority do not really understand voice or data packs, and the expiry dates of their plans. In most cases, telecom operators provide insufficient or incomplete information, which creates confusion for consumers.

The For-Masses-OfIndia context

Mubble is built for the masses of India. Building for the masses of India requires a deep understanding of the nuances of Tier2 town India. Firstly, telecom network infrastructure is characterised by slow speeds and intermittent connections. This requires a design paradigm for the app to work perfectly even when offline.Additionally, Indian consumers tend to be very price sensitive and mobile data is significantly expensive. Not only does Mubble work offline, but the engineering team of Mubble ensures that the feature-rich intelligent app is under 4MB in size!Lastly, Mubble is available in 7 Indian languages, so that language as a barrier to adoption is removed. Mubble is poised to navigate through the next wave of smartphone and mobile data adoption- expected from tier II and III geographies in India, where language will be playing a critical role.

The Technology Brilliance context

Mubble is built on world-class technology architecture and has built very strong technology IP. In order to understand the pop-up messages sent by the operator to users, Mubble has built a self-healing, crowdsourced Unstructured Natural Language Parser, that is able to interpret highly nonsyntactical text with ease. Another example is their prepaid pack recommendation feature which is currently in beta, is based on sophisticated machine learning algorithms. These recommendations are designed to maximize value to the dual SIM prepaid user in India. Mubble is extremely sensitive and does not require users to enter any personal information for the app to function. Further, its technology is designed to leverage the growing power of smartphones for computing, rather than take data back to their servers.

Our own key measure of success however, is the incredible bond we have with our user community – the true masses of India living in Tier 2 cities and buying a smartphone for the first time!


Present scenario and future plans:

Mubble is currently a complete prepaid SIM companion app with a focus on the mobile data conscious tier 2 town audience. The app is continuing to engage with its loyal and active user base to understand their problems and needs; and is building an exciting array of features that are aimed at helping prepaid users across India. Mubble is currently focused on serving the needs of the Indian user, and is available for download only in India. However the team has received numerous enquiries from various emerging market countries across the world, including Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia. The company is however plans to expand into newer geographies only after specific internal milestones have been achieved.Let’s know more about Mubble from Mr. Ashwin Ramaswamy, the founder and CEO of Mubble-Exhibit: Hey Ashwin, we really appreciate the idea of Mubble. How and when did you get the idea?Ashwin: My co-founders (Pranav Jha & Raghvendra Varma) and I were on a family vacation in Lakshadweep. One evening, we were discussing aspects that are the essential fabric of India – Cricket, Bollywood and Religion. However, we soon also realized that prepaid SIMs and dual SIM phones are the other key aspects that define India and cut across all layers of society. We came back to Bangalore and switched to prepaid SIMs to understand this phenomenon better, and soon faced a myriad of problems as users. We then spoke to friends and people we knew using prepaid, more from the intent of trying to understand how people solve the basic problems of knowing their balances, their call rates, pack expiry, live data balance and so on.And we then understood that everyone faced similar challenges… 95% of India uses a prepaid sim. This was too big an opportunity for us to let go – the chance to solve a real consumer pain point. And that’s how the idea was born – a chance discussion on the beaches of Lakshadweep!Exhibit: How is the reception of Mubble so far among the mobile users? Did you see any changes in the ways they use their smartphones?AR: The reception from users has been very rewarding so far. We get hundreds of emails and WhatsApp messages everyday from users across India appreciating how we have made their lives a bit easier by taking out the headache of tracking and managing their prepaid SIMs. In fact much of Mubble’s features today are a direct outcome of our users telling us what they wanted in our app. For example, the idea of a downloadable prepaid bill came as a direct verbatim from our users. These conversations have been extremely emotionally fulfilling for us.In terms of how users use their smartphones, we are seeing users relying on us a lot more. Our intelligent alert systems warn a prepaid user of pack expiry, call rate changes and suspicious deductions to name a few. Our loyal users have become more dependent on us and rely on these alerts as well as our recommendations, for their recharge. If I had to sum it up in one line, the BIG behavioural change we are seeing is that users are checking our recommendations before recharging their SIMs!Exhibit: How were the initial days with Mubble? Did you have your own share of challenges or was it comparatively smooth?AR: The initial days of Mubble were as much fun as it is today! We began our journey in a secluded bungalow with a vast lawn in Koramangala, Bengaluru. I remember telling friends that the first bite of reality of a startup is a mosquito bite! But jokes apart, our early days were filled with challenges of all kinds. Something as simple as translations – we were using Google Translate, which said that the hindi word for “deductions” is Katauti. Our users laughed and told us “aap kharcha kyon nahi kehte”. One day one of our users called us and kept talking in Marathi, while we ran searching for someone who could understand what the user was saying – which turned out to be a bunch of incredible inputs for us. But the harder challenges were on the product front and code design – I believe the key is to constantly innovate and stay ahead of the competition and closer to the consumer; this is the key challenge that remains. Our challenge has been to design for the masses of India. This requires a nuanced attention to detail and avoid overlooking universal truths in what seems obvious. For example, our app is designed to work offline – a requirement from our data conscious tier2 users, who do not like to keep their phone on mobile-data all the time. Our app is designed to be below 5MB in size – another requirement of our user base, can you imagine a 100MB prepaid pack user spending 15% of his data pack on just downloading one app that’s 15MB in size? Designing for India is truly a real challenge!Exhibit: Where do you foresee Mubble from five years since now?AR: We are the trusted advisor to prepaid users of India. We are the perfect prepaid companion app and see ourselves as the number one prepaid app in India. Our users affectionately tell us that “aap toh prepaid ke sachche saathi ho”. With so much trust and expectations, we foresee to be at a much higher position in 5 years since now.Exhibit: Success story of Mubble till date can be summed up as…AR: Our success is the love and affection we receive from our user base, which is like a family to us. We have been fortunate to get majority of our downloads through word-ofmouth with very little marketing spend. Our users have done most of the language translations for our app into local languages. Our users constantly write and call us with their inputs and feedback, and have helped us build our product, feature by feature. From a metric standpoint, this translates into excellent retention rates, engagement levels and low cost per installs. Our own key measure of success however, is the incredible bond we have with our user community – the true masses of India living in Tier 2 cities and buying a smartphone for the first time!

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