I Built & Launched An iPad App For Travelers [From India]

$0
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
Routespunkt
from Pune
started April 2021
$0
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
4.85K
alexa rank
market size
$4B
avg revenue (monthly)
$250K
starting costs
$16.7K
gross margin
30%
time to build
9 months
average product price
$25
growth channels
Outsourcing
business model
Advertising
best tools
Udemy, Unsplash, Affinity Designer
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
tips
4 Tips
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platform
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education
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I am Sudipto Paul, the founder of Routespunkt. I am the product owner of Routespunkt Notebook app that is exclusively available at the iPad App Store.

Routespunkt was formed to support the beyond-app-release operations of the app, namely Ads and Tax filing. There being over 2 million apps in the App Store today, Ads provide an avenue to catch the attention of potential customers, on average at a much larger scale than just App Store Optimization for a newly launched product.

Released first on 14th April 2021 on the iPad App Store, in a minimum viable product form as a Traveler’s digital scrapbook, the current user base is 60 users.

i-built-launched-an-ipad-app-for-travelers-from-india

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

In 2013 I subscribed to an iOS-programming-centric YouTube channel for the first time. Between then and 2019 I did a Hello World program on iOS. During this time, I was doing good as a Test Automation Consultant/ Manager and life was hectic, yet the creative urge to make a product of my own would come calling again.

So, in 2019, having moved out of my last project and employer, I saw a Y-junction in my career – to what point I had come, where I would go if I continued in the same path vs. the new stuff I could do as I start on my own on a new path. Both paths to the future were promising in their way, so the decision was more difficult than my decision to get into the software industry after graduation (in the year 1997) – I was a Mechanical Engineer at Graduation (no, I was not a bright student) and came into the Software Industry with an extracurricular course in C language that made me feel upbeat about all things computers.

I spent a few months brushing up on my programming skills – with one new language - Python, and one language that I already knew - Java. As my confidence grew, I started thinking about mobile apps. I thought about what I liked, and the theme of travel seemed to pop up the most. I liked digital maps and the market was quickly evolving.

Now was the time for another important decision – to go with Android, or go with Swift as a programming language for making my app. As an individual developer, I chose to go with Swift as I had heard about the Apple ecosystem and how seamlessly different kinds of devices talk together. Besides, learning a new programming language would be fun! The required software development kit was available, and I enrolled for online courses to learn swift programming – from Swift Code Guru Chris Ching, and many more from Udemy.

It took me close to a year to build the first product – it was an excursion tracker app, where your cycling or camping buddies could see each other’s location on a map. However, the pandemic was sweeping across continents at that time. I worked on additional features for a few months, but lockdowns are not good for a business that depends on teams rather than individuals.

So, I started thinking about apps for individuals that would be resilient to lockdowns. I started on an app that could be used for navigation – for both personal and commercial vehicles. Here I made an error in understanding the SDK license terms and what is restricted.

This called for improvisation and a different end product. I liked the Maps and didn’t want to leave it out of the next product. Against the requirement of being able to use the product even in lockdowns, a traveler’s notebook would be a good product. One can use a notebook before travel, during travel, and after travel – at home, or while on the move. Such a product would be very exciting to build. And thus, was born the idea of Routespunkt Notebook.

This is me, with my better half, at the local movie hall (before the pandemic started):

i-built-launched-an-ipad-app-for-travelers-from-india

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Here’s my daughter’s desk that I sometimes use:

i-built-launched-an-ipad-app-for-travelers-from-india

In the initial days of Product inception, I drew various screens and related data of the app in a paper notebook.

i-built-launched-an-ipad-app-for-travelers-from-india

As I put each screen design into a programming editor, I would think about the entry and exit points of that screen. As I thought about each exit point, it helped to follow the line of thought and get to the next screen(s) and think about additional fields that would help achieve the goal of this flow.

If you are starting on app development, plan to release your app as soon as it attains MVP, and then have regular updates. The App Store ranks apps that release regular updates, higher.

To be able to use the product firsthand, I also acquired a device that would let me experience the product being built. For most of the app features, working on the simulator is great. For the finishing touches and specific user flows testing, a real device is good.

Post-release user acquisition strategy and activities are as important as the app’s features and ease of use, like:

  • Keyword metadata needs to be optimized and aimed at higher ranking keywords.
  • Localization is recommended, though I’m not there yet. Each market has its own set of higher-ranked keywords.
  • App Store Creatives need to attract user interest.

Describe the process of launching the business.

This is a bootstrapped app and initially, App Store Optimization, Apple Search Ads, and a listing on a website were tried on a trial basis. In 2 months, I learned that this needs more varied web footprints to reach more people. Hence, I’ve gone for some more web listings, and am trying to get press coverage and reviews at app review websites.

On the app side, to be able to reach more customers, market coverage for the app has been gradually increased. The hardware was earlier restricted to specific types of iPads. An exercise in memory footprint optimization and rationalization of load time was conducted, and now the app is available to a lot more iPads. Ratings form an important part of how the app is promoted in the App Store - recently StoreKit was implemented in the app to facilitate in-app rating, and to ask users for their feedback after they’ve used the app for some time.

Here’s a screenshot of the initial product website:

i-built-launched-an-ipad-app-for-travelers-from-india

As a technical person, I had thought that getting the app to the App Store would be the biggest challenge. Yet, due to so many apps in the marketplace, bringing the app to potential customers is turning out to be a bigger challenge!

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Apple Search Ads has been the channel of choice, this being an iPad-based app.

I have taken the services of ListHour to get the app listed across app directories and review websites.

Currently, I’ve initiated press coverage through Promotehour.

As the app user base grows, having a social platform to invite them to interact would be important. This is not my expertise, so I’ve identified a local event management firm that’ll manage this for users in the country. Learnings from this initiative could be extended to global users as well. This would require time because it will have an event management angle, and it requires the Covid-19 pandemic to subside so people will be forthcoming to venture out.

Privacy and data storage aspects would need to be studied and this is expected to take time as many countries have become active this year and mandate data stored locally.

Press based alternative to this approach (of reaching out to potential users) exists and is currently being tried. Looking at the long time involved in engaging with journalists, I’ve already initiated initial activity to identify niche publications for a specific app feature I’d be adding next year.

To enable success for the PR Firm/ App Optimization Agency/ Event Management Firm, the app has already enabled a wider footprint of all iPad users, instead of just those with a minimum A12 processor. The app’s reach to users will be expanded soon (this year) in a huge way, to reach users having iPhone devices. And this will give the required scale of operations to these teams.

To keep the existing users interested in the app, I try to provide a new version each month.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

This is just the beginning of my app marketing and ads. I’m outsourcing the marketing and press coverage.

The current user base of around 60 is mostly on the free version of the app.

Till now there is no feedback or review about the app.

The iOS StoreKit has been implemented to ask for a review after the user has used the app for some days.

The app’s website also has a form to receive user feedback.

I would like to hear from the users about their app usage experience. In the latest version release of the app, I have requested the users to share feedback.

Social media platforms and/or email marketing might arrive next year. This would need to be based on a study of local data and privacy requirements, the scale of my company operations, and the feasibility of maintenance.

i-built-launched-an-ipad-app-for-travelers-from-india

This app will get new features throughout this year, so it's an exciting time as a product owner and designer, and hopefully as a new user.

There is an effort to optimize the app for keyword ranking at the app store, and this needs to be done each month.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Reflecting upon the time gone by, I can see that allocation of a big budget for Marketing and Advertisements would help. It takes months to get the Advertisement Strategy correct if you’re working on your own. So, getting help from an experienced marketing agency is advisable. Just to make people aware of the product and what it does, I’m also going to the Press, as they have massive people outreach.

Outsourcing both Marketing and Press Coverage will release a substantial time for me, that can be used for product enhancements. Product enhancements need to be regular and accompanied with App Store Optimizations, to keep users interested and the App Store Ranking going up.

The pandemic put restrictions on people’s travel plans – this was a disadvantage. Having started work-from-home, with lesser time spent on travel to the office, this has liberated free time in one’s daily schedule. This is a positive as people would spend time on writing about their previous travels – recent and not-so-recent, as well as start planning about future travels.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

  • Tomtom Maps SDK for iOS. They have an extensive set of maps, search, routing, and more features. The map colors are customizable by the app developer. They have a big customer base and that helps in having accurate route information
  • The app integrates RevenueCat SDK for App Store Subscription management. They simplify the process of implementation required to enable subscriptions, and of validating that app is accessed by a genuine subscriber
  • Affinity Designer is used for all icons in the app, and custom graphics around screenshots at the App Store
  • Webflow is used to host the app marketing website for the app. I bought a template and was ready to host my site in a short period. It’s also a no code tool that is very customizable. Its change-a-control-class to affect all-existing-instances of the control class is a productivity booster
  • Elastic Themes templates for Webflow is used to get a leap start at a professionally presentable look for the app marketing website
  • iubenda is used for policy document generation. They are very well versed with a lot of recent legal policy changes across the world
  • ListHour for app listings at various websites. This includes websites where one can ask for app review articles. As a technical person, I never knew about so many websites
  • PromoteHour for getting press coverage of the app. They create the foundation pitch and then reach out to journalists from various media houses
  • App Radar for App Store Optimization
  • ProAppVideo for an app explainer video with a real person explaining the app
  • Biteable for marketing videos with a commercial license, to be shown on the app marketing website. I like their templates. I do not require regular creation of videos, so I subscribe to on-demand
  • AgeFotoStock for photos with a commercial license, to be shown on the app marketing website. I use these photos in App Preview videos or App Screenshots displayed at the App Store
  • undraw for illustrations, to be shown on the app marketing website. One can change the theme color of each illustration

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

To gain knowledge of new areas, I refer to videos on related content at Udemy, Domestika, or articles at Ray Wenderlich.

Here’re some of my favorite Course Authors:

Children’s Book Design and Writing:

Travel Journaling:

Bullet Journaling:

Drawing:

Branding and Digital Marketing:

Swift programming:

I like to read articles published on Medium. It’s a good place to learn about various topics in the Swift language and many more.

It’s good to learn new technology, think about how it can make the app more useful to users, and then add related features. The converse is also true where a need is felt for a feature and then I search for learning media covering such topics.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

If you are starting on app development, plan to release your app as soon as it attains MVP, and then have regular updates. The App Store ranks apps that release regular updates, higher.

There are times when there are issues that do not get resolved in three days. Take a detour, solve some other problem, read technical articles about similar issues. When you come back to the unresolved problem, you must have a different perspective about it, and your mind should be fresh to try many new approaches over the next few days. Very likely it will get resolved sooner.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Some new features and stationeries, and some changes are slated to go into the product this year. The sales pitch is gradually building up and will have good traction soon.

The kind of work I outsource today is intermittent.

Once the scale of business ramps up, this could become more frequent.

The app has features for individuals so far. There was one enterprise feature I tried, but it didn’t turn out to be feasible. So, I will focus on features for individuals this year.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Sudipto Paul,   Founder of Routespunkt
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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