Gurgaon based multi-product, global tech company AppyHigh is building utility and content platforms for the next billion. Led by serial entrepreneurs Venus Dhuria and Aneesh Rayancha, AppyHigh has been recognised as one of the top ten publishers in India by App Annie in 2021. The bootstrapped startup has built an ecosystem of 20+ apps around everyday day users’ needs right from utility to productivity to entertainment among others.
We spoke with Venus Dhuria and Aneesh Rayancha to talk more about the unique proposition of the company, the scale they have achieved and how they make an everyday user’s life more simple, clutter free and enriching.
Some edited excerpts:
What is the problem you are solving?
AppyHigh is a mobile internet technology company that builds products to engage and inspire millions everyday. The smartphone has emerged as the greatest enabler of expanding internet usage. People are shifting from PC first to a mobile first mindset, and first time internet users are coming online via smartphones. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – starting from the most basic physiological needs to safety, love & belonging and eventually – self actualisation needs, an individual’s digital life can be described using the ‘Digital Hierarchy of Needs’.
The most utilitarian activities on a phone – like file sharing (Share Karo), phone cleaning and speeding up (Cleaner Go), locking apps (Applock GO); to productivity related tasks such as scanning & converting documents (Scanner GO); to self-expression on social media with the most happening captions/hashtags, funky grids and photo collages (Instore) and last but not the least entertaining oneself with content and staying informed (TV Lens, MasterFeed), AppyHigh’s unique ecosystem of apps caters to the entire spectrum of this digital hierarchy of needs. With its intuitive and user-friendly apps, AppyHigh’s purpose is to mitigate friction from everyday lives and build digital confidence as more & more people come online in this new age of the Internet. AppyHigh launches new products at lightning fast speed to capitalise on ongoing user trends. A ‘fail smart and learn fast culture’ at AppyHigh encourages the team to iterate, test hypotheses to find the best solutions to a smartphone user’s problems.
Give us a brief/ backstory on how the company came into being?
We met while working at Reckitt. Aneesh (an alumnus of IIT Bombay) worked as an R&D scientist while Venus (a PEC Chandigarh alumnus), worked on setting up manufacturing facilities for new products. Our jobs required innovation and invention everyday and that’s how we discovered a common entrepreneurial zeal and a desire to do something different, together.
In 2014, we came together and started Rutogo, a cab aggregator for outstation and local cabs. Completely bootstrapped, with some funds borrowed from friends & family & scaled it to bookings from 20 cities in 12 months. They further expanded services to 60 cities, before Ixigo acquired them in 2015. The product merged with Ixigo Cabs & they joined Ixigo to lead this vertical and expanded it to 10,000 bookings per day.
What were your initial learnings as entrepreneurs?
Our experience taught us the power of keeping the business model lean & cost efficient, instead of burning cash like other consumer internet startups. We focussed on becoming sustainable first. Speed was our biggest asset in going from idea to launch & scale.
We observed the rapid pace at which the mobile first mindset was catching up in Bharat, as smartphones brought portability and lower cost of ownership. We decided to experiment with different apps based on the aggregation model – Anyjob – an all in one job search and posting app; Smartshopper – all in one ecommerce shopping app, and Samachari – all in one news platform.
Tell us more about your moat, the innovation that you have brought to the market?
The smartphone is now the most intensively used device for every individual, for almost any activity of one’s life. AppyHigh’s unique ecosystem of apps caters to the entire spectrum of the digital hierarchy of needs
AppyHigh’s moat is rooted in 5 pillars:
1. Proven idea to market playbook: In three years, AppyHigh has launched and scaled 20+ products, thus establishing golden rules that enable innovation at lightning fast speed and rapid scale-up.
2. High entry barriers: We’ve driven 450mn downloads across our ecosystem of apps in a very cost efficient manner. Achieving this today will not only take a long time, but also face prohibitive user acquisition costs. The technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities powering our apps are not easy to replicate.
3. Robust Tech and AI foundation: We have created several technological Intellectual Properties (IPs) that power our products and make them unique.
4. User intimacy: Our ecosystem serves almost 50 million users, this has equipped us with thorough understanding of the digital native’s usage and attitudes – the foundation of our lightning fast innovations.
5. Committed team: What started with just two co-founders, has today transformed into a team of 90 driven Appyzens who believe in AppyHigh’s vision. 15+ Appyzens have in the past started their own companies while several others possess leadership and operational experience with world class organisations.
Who is your competition and how do you stand out?
AppyHigh aims to serve a billion internet users by 2026. In that sense the market is a multi-billion opportunity. Right from the Creator Economy which is poised to reach $500 billion by 2025, or the Digital Advertising industry which will be a $700 billion market.
Competition for AppyHigh comes from various sources. AppyHigh has a priceless opportunity to serve the Bharat audience following the ban on Chinese consumer internet giants like – Bytedance, Shareit, Meitu, Cheetah Mobile etc. who created a wide portfolio of apps. Then, there are large established players such as Adobe Scan (document scanning), Picsart (photo editing) and also small individual developers that make apps and vie for users.
The difference is that AppyHigh isn’t just building apps, but a proliferating ecosystem to elevate the digital native’s smartphone experience with apps that are intuitive, easy to use and efficient. Eg. Scanner Go, Bharat’s answer for a world-class Document SuperApp. It’s a one stop solution to scan, convert, extract, add watermarks, detect images, share documents among others to function effectively through a mobile device and also allows up to 200MB of free cloud storage. All these features are free for any user, which may not be the case on any other platform.
How has your business grown?
We have remained bootstrapped and organically grown the user base to 450 mn downloads in India, which is a feat! We have seen a 10x expansion in our user base (MAUs), from 5 mn MAUs in 2018 to 50 mn MAUs in 2021 which shows that we are heading in the right direction with our products.
What are your plans for the next 12-18 months?
We will focus on vertical and horizontal expansion by bringing new products catering to emerging user trends at lightning speed, across our categories and hence expand our user base to 100-150 million users in the next 1 year. We intend to start B2B operations by making business use cases of our products like Scanner GO, MasterFeed available to SMBs and large businesses in India. We want to have at least 100k plus developers use our MasterFeed SDK. We would like to expand Scanner Go to Tier 2 and 3 geographies in India. AppyHigh will also be looking at the commercial launch of an end-to-end app management platform to enable developers track and grow their apps and business.