Published:
03 Jun 2016
Duration:
10 min read
Words:
1158 words
VMAG talks to the founder of Hamro Patro, Shankar Uprety, who takes immense pride in the fact that his app has helped simplify the schedules of over 500,000 Nepalis

What was the inspiration for Hamro Patro?

Of all the things I took with me to the US, the bhittey patro (Nepali calendar) turned out to be very important for me because it helped me keep tabs on all the festivities and celebrations back home. It helped me stay connected to my roots and heritage. Of course, a year later, I was left alone with an obsolete calendar hanging on my wall, and that’s when the inspiration for the Hamro Patro app came about. I knew the dates for major festivals like Dashain and Tihar, but keeping track of other smaller yet significant celebrations like Mother’s Day and Janai Purnima was difficult. I contacted my friends in Nepal who helped me with the dates and festival updates. You can say, in order to overcome the cultural gap, necessity was the mother of Hamro Patro’s invention.

How was the response to the first version?

At first, making the app was more like a hobby, and I spent at least two hours every day from my day job to work on it. The result was the Hamro Patro app for iOS. My friends were really impressed, and some of them even suggested I release it on the app store. At that time you had to pay $99 to put your app on the site, so I wasn’t exactly sure about it, but now I look back on the move as money well spent. I feel proud that the app, which was a result of my personal interest, has gone on to connect hundreds and thousands of Nepalis all over the world. In fact, that’s the idea behind the nomenclature of the app; when I showed it to my friends, they said it’s not just your app—it’s every Nepali’s calendar app, hence the name Hamro Patro.

What do you think is the main reason for the popularity of Hamro Patro?

I think timing is always very important. In 2010, when Hamro Patro was released, there weren’t any such apps in the market. We’ve gained users via word of mouth, and I would like to believe the popularity of the apps—Hamro Patro, Nepali Dictionary and Hamro Nepali Keyboard—have been due to their robust build, timely updates, and because they fulfill the needs of the users. Today, we have taken the app beyond a simple Nepali calendar to a one-stop solution for information on currency exchange rates, news and daily horoscopes.

How many users have you acquired in the last six years?

Hamro Patro, Hamro Nepali Keyboard, and Nepali Dictionary have acquired a loyal user base, and the users have downloaded the apps some 500,000 times on Android and iOS platforms. And that number is growing every day with the rising use of smartphones. Initially, most of the users were from outside Nepal, but the trend has changed since 2013. Today more than 50 per cent of our app users are here and the rest are in the Gulf countries, Malaysia, Japan and the US.

How did you go about building the app?

From the moment I got my first iPhone, I wanted to make something on it. That’s when I realised the need for a bhittey patro. Back in 2008, there weren’t as many tools available for app development; in my search for resources, I stumbled across a video by a Stanford University professor on making apps, so that was my starting point. I started out by working on the app over weekends, and in about two months the first version of Hamro Patro was ready.

How have you maintained the dates?

We basically follow the dates approved by the Nepali government’s Panchanga Nirnayak Samiti, who accredit the dates of various festivals and national holidays in the country. Furthermore, some of the dates can be calculated. This is where the quality check comes in; this is where I would like to get a lot of feedback and data validation.

Aside from programming skills, what are the other important aspects of app development?

Programming skills and good coding are never enough. You have to conduct a market feasibility study of your intended user base. Also, design is very important—people respond to that right away, especially when doing user testing.

What difficulties do you have to face while developing apps?

The challenging part of app development has to be the uncertainty, which also makes it interesting as it keeps you on your toes. We do have our own set of technical challenges, like we have more than half a million daily users, so it is quite a task managing them. Our marketing is not exactly as rigorous as it should be, but we are constantly working to correct our weaknesses.

Challenges—then and now.

When I started, the challenge was just to release an app, but now it has to do with user acquisition. There are so many options available these days that if you falter just a bit, you could easily lose your user base. There are also the technical challenges and the challenge of distributing across platforms. People are very personal about what apps they should have, so getting inside their mind requires a lot of research.

Any advice for those who want to create an app?

The whole world is driven by information technology, and  a lot of youngsters are tapping into the worldwide web and developing a lot of stuff for themselves.This is very important—start with you and your needs. It doesn’t have to be a very sophisticated software or app; just keep on experimenting and you will get there.