As teenagers, most of us dream of creating start-ups that would take the world by storm. But we often fail to execute the brilliant ideas that often come across our minds. But 27–year-old Ankit Prasad has shown everyone how it’s done. How a simple idea can be turned into a brilliant start-up just by understanding the ecosystem of the internet and exploiting the opportunities that it presents.
Winning a hackathon
Ankit was born in Chaibasa, a small town in Jharkhand. Later, his family shifted to Jamshedpur, where he finished his final years of schooling. His father, who is presently the Head of their Metallurgical & Material Science department in NIT Jamshedpur, always made sure academics was his top priority and he never compromised on that. Being a bright student, Ankit joined IIT Delhi in 2008 in a five-year mathematics and computing course.
During his second year at IIT-D, Ankit won a hackathon idea organized by Yahoo. This unexpected success planted a seed of curiosity and entrepreneurship in his mind and ultimately, that idea metamorphosed into a content app called Bobble. In less than 12 months, he realized that users needed a simpler mechanism to share content while chatting on WhatsApp.
Thus, he evolved in a keyboard that helped users share their content without interrupting conversations. To his surprise, the usage of his innovation soared sky high almost overnight. With entrepreneurship being his daily dose of adrenaline, Ankit dropped out in 2012 and to focus solely on his venture.
Understanding the Internet’s potential
The power of Bobble keyboard fascinated Ankit and his team so much that they positioned it as their core product. They realized that in the upcoming years, smartphones would be the basic necessity of every individual and making its interfacing unique, exciting, and engaging for the audience would prove to be a gamechanger.
Since then, they’ve added various convenient and expressive features like fonts, themes, languages, swipe typing, and many more. However, creating a team of like-minded individuals starting from just an idea was not at all easy.
He explored personal networks of family, school, and college before hiring from outside his known network. Initially things didn’t happen as he wanted to, but his persistence and perseverance paid off gradually. Over the years, he was able to recruit and extraordinary team bursting with passion that pursues the same vision everyday with a never ending enthusiasm.
Being at par with Google
But just like every other start-up venture, Ankit too had to face his share of struggles in his endeavour to make it big despite the giants, Google’s GBoard and Microsoft’s Swiftkey. The first, and by far the biggest challenge he faced was to ensure product hygiene across all devices in a fragmented Android ecosystem.
Even with his in-depth knowledge and expertise, he and his team struggle at times to maintain hygiene with upcoming OS versions and devices. But on the flipside, his team has done a commendable job in distinguishing itself with a superior UX as compared to global benchmarks.
They say that fortune favours the brave and something quite similar happened to the hard-working Ankit.
“We were fortunate to find 16 angel investors who showed faith in the team and the vision. We found them mostly from our personal network like college alumni,” he says in an interview with KenFolios.
The list of investors include veteran entrepreneurs like Sachin and Binny Bansal of Flipkart, Deep Kalra of MakeMyTrip, Amit Ranjan of SlideShare (LinkedIn), Prashant Malik of Facebook, and Prashant Tandon and Gaurav Agarwal of 1mg. Later, SAIF Partners saw the viral growth of Bobble Keyboard and the massive potential in it and became its first institutional investor.
The app that understands you
But what was it that made Bobble so popular among users from both India and abroad?
“Bobble Keyboard is not just a typing tool but a well-thought compilation of all inputs on mobile – text, voice and camera. We have created a data network to add to the user experience,” tells Ankit. Their unique face recognition technology has helped them in complementing this data network with a human network. The product makes ones usage experience smarter, leveraging a full-fledged network backed with data and technology.
Over the last three years, Bobble Keyboard has earned over 15 million users and the growth is still exponential. Less than six months ago, Ankit started monetizing his app and since then, the revenue has consistently grown at 15 percent per month. This means that his team is able to cover over 60 percent of the operating expenses and should be profitable soon.
Bobble Keyboard presently has a magnificent rating of 4.6 on Google Play. Its Net Promoter Score is 67 as per third party sources, which makes it an excellent viral product. Today, from neutral third party sources, Ankit’s keyboard is the most engaged keyboard globally. Recently, he was a part of the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia 2018 list.
Ankit’s journey of creating a sensational app from just an idea shows us that all it takes to succeed is the execution of a dream. Unlike many other startups that fail to compete against tech giants like Google, he has made his mark by understanding the market and capitalizing on its potential.
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