Commuting is a huge pain for employees working in metros like Bengaluru, Delhi (NCR) and Mumbai amongst others. A major chunk of working class in these cities spend about two to three hours for daily office commute. This takes a significant toll on the productivity of individuals.
To weed-out this pain, Delhi-based Bobble has come up with unique arrangements that allow employees to stay inside the office campus. The company has enabled openness and freedom for its coworkers, more than half of whom have chosen to stay on campus.
“Our lifestyle, especially our zero commute time, is a luxury by any benchmark,” says Mohd Wassem, co-founder, Bobble. Bobble app lets users create stickers and comics from their own face. It creates caricatures from selfies, accompanied by customised text. These stickers can be shared across chat WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and other chat platforms.
In-house accommodation helps in accelerating productivity
The whole arrangement is designed for extreme efficiency and frugality. Important team meetings can happen absolutely any time. “Our unstinting focus is on user satisfaction. No daily commutes, no deciding what/where to wear/eat/cook, no domestic errands – these activities are fatal to user focus and mutual camaraderie. Work hours at Bobble are truly flexible,” adds Wassem.
For employees, staying in office campus is a solution to many problems. Besides the pain of commuting, it ensures them not to worry about food and other ordeals involved in managing independent living. “During my previous stint with a Noida-based e-commerce firm I spent two and a half hours in daily commute (from home to office and vice-versa) as I was living in Gurgaon,” says Asrar Azher (25).
Azher joined Bobble three months ago and started living inside the office campus. “The whole arrangement of living is being taken care by the management and it reflects on my productivity,” he says. The company deducts Rs 20,000 monthly from employee’s salary for accommodation and other services. According to Azher, the co-living arrangement lets him brainstorm various aspects of product management with the team including co-founders and clear his doubts instantly.
“Our culture is unique to India; many of our angel investors, who have worked for decades in the Silicon Valley in the US, have said that our team spirit and optimism is the closest they have felt to the early days of Google and Facebook,” says Wassem.
Rubbing shoulders with likes of Microsoft and Google
Launched in 2015, Bobble started out as a standalone app for stickers, however, it re-launched as Bobble Keyboard in March 2016. With customised stickers and GIFs, the startup aims to make mobile conversations more expressive and personal.
Currently, Bobble claims to have 12 million downloads and over half a million daily active users (DAUs ), each making 30 sessions every day on an average.
The company claims that its user base is youngest in India. Bobble claims that about 91% of its users are under 29 years.
“At a very conservative estimate, we would generate $50,000 per month. We are in discussions with DSP and other major partners to push this model forward. This estimate is for just one model, and only for next 3 months. You can imagine the possibilities. Without sounding immodest, we are well on the path to operational profitability within 2017,” says Wassem.
Interestingly, the company’s app is among the top 100 most retained apps on Google Play globally. “Our cohorts are better than Microsoft’s SwiftKey and Google’s Gboard, as per third-party reports,” claims Wassem.
Recently, Bobble introduced dynamic stickers and GIFs which essentially allows a keyboard to show relevant stickers and GIFs right over the chat screen. It also lets users to type faster by sliding their finger from letter to letter and recognizes mistyping to provide corrections and auto-suggestions.
How Bobble eyes to generate revenue
Bobble is also employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to suggest relevant content using factors like text, emoticons, location, language, relationship among others.
The company works with brands to monetize insights for specific geographies and specific categories (such as payments, shopping, entertainment et al).
In a developing country like India, users of low-end smartphones number in the hundreds of millions. They face constraints of data affordability, battery consumption and memory space on phones. App usage is abysmal compared to the developed world.
Even giants like Facebook struggle to increase their user base. “Here again, our innovative features like bookmarks would be a strong enabler towards squeezing the most utility out of phones. We have partnered with an agency in the US which works OEMs in India,” says Wassem.
The company also plans to serve non-intrusive native ads. “Brands have approached us to target our users and repeat the success of our campaigns with Tinder, YourStory, Eros movies (Bajirao Mastani) etc,” adds Wassem.
Presently, it generates 200 million content impressions on a monthly basis, out of which roughly 30 million are monetizable. In the next quarter, Bobble is looking to increase its content impressions to over 1 billion, out of which 150-200 million would be monetizable. “At a very conservative estimate, we would generate $50,000 per month. We are in discussions with DSP and other major partners to push this model forward,” adds Wassem.
Growing organically: Word of mouth drives 65% users
Most importantly, Bobble is not a typing tool, but ‘keyboard as a platform’. Typically, keyboard is the first point of interaction between users and the phone. There are layers of features focusing on hygiene (Swipe typing, autocorrect, languages, themes etc.) and convenience (intelligent bar for emojis, fonts, numbers) that could be built on the keyboard.
“All these features would be leveraged to create a network effect on the keyboard. We have a strong network already- about 65% users come through word of mouth while 30% plus users have more than three connection on Bobble, and 10% have more than five,” quips Wassem.
Bobble competes with Gboard, Google Indic Keyboard, SwiftKey, Swype, Chrooma, Minuum, Fleksy, Sogou, TouchPal amongst a few others.
Bobble is working to make itself independent by focusing on monetization through features. “Users have placed their faith in us, and we will put their interest at the top of the hierarchy. We will respect their user experience and privacy. We’re looking to hire top-class talent, especially in engineering, to execute our vision,” concludes Wassem.