Gomathi Sankar co-founded Mocept along with Pranay Jha in 2013. Gomathi, an Engineering graduate from College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai has a Masters Degree from IIT Kanpur. Pranay has been in the mobility space both in enterprise and consumer and he is an MBA from IIM Calcutta. The founding team had a passion towards learning and quizzing. Gomathi and Pranay talk about Illustrate – a video dictionary, and their decision to start building quiz apps in this chat.
The dictionary has been around for more than 100 years. However, its look and feel hasn’t changed much. Its largely a text book one can use to check meanings of various words. However, the Mocept Duo wanted to deliver the same content in a more interactive manner so that it actually helps learners to retain the vocabulary and even learn to use those words in the right context. Their choice was to take the AV route. Thus, Illustrate was launched soon after they started Mocept. Illustrate is essentially a video dictionary which uses a visual medium to not only explain meanings of English words but also their usage in different scenarios. The idea was in gestation for more than three years during which they saw YouTube based dictionaries. They also reviewed two major competitors in the US and found that their apps focused on certain things like the words that can be shown but didn’t focus on narration. The founding team identified this as a gap and filled it with their first product Illustrate.
Mocept’s first product was an English video dictionary app named illustrate-Video Dictionary. The aim of the app is to help learners understand the meanings of words better through the use of animated videos. Initially videos were being developed that were 2-3 minutes long. Feedback from beta testers and focus groups showed that 2-3 minutes was too long especially for a mobile format. Also not every person wanted to see a video for every word. The app was redesigned around videos that were approximately 30 seconds in length, also text meanings of the words were displayed first and videos were played on clicking of a thumbnail. The redesigned app was thus much more user friendly and suitable for the smartphone/ tablet format.
Illustrate is designed as a mobile only app as consumption of such apps is largely mobile driven especially in economies like India and LatAm. A majority of its users are young adults preparing for GRE and GMAT or people who want to learn English as their second language.
The design of Illustrate has also been done keeping in mind users’ convenience. On the UI front, users can find the words they are looking for as there is a search bar in every screen and the users can also explore the app from the home screen. Illustrate is now available for leading platforms like Android, iOS and Windows.
Mocept advertise its apps on Facebook and other leading social media platforms. It uses targeted advertising mechanisms for multiple age groups. An in-house social media team tracks various trends relevant to their product and come up with a marketing strategy. Based on recommendations by the social media team, the messaging in the ads keeps changing. Pranay says, another reason for tracking social media so actively is that they want to bring down their cost per install even further. Currently, they are 50% cheaper to install as compared to other mobile apps, however, they would like to drive this cost further down without compromising on the quality.
The team is known to blog about their apps regularly which gets them a healthy mix of organic and inorganic traffic on their app. For tapping into college community, Mocept conducts Hackathons for engineering students to promote their product. A dual benefit of conducting such events is that it helps the company to attract the right talent too. Pranay says they will be conducting more Hackathons as it has been beneficial for the product.
Another learning Mocept acquired in Feb this year was when they launched Freehit, a cricket trivia quiz app, two weeks before the Cricket World Cup,. To avoid boredom, the marketing team changed their messaging frequently, in order to connect with more and more young people. But it didn’t result in downloads as they were expecting. The reason being that most of online advertising mediums work on algorithms that help companies reach out to appropriate audience. But since Mocept kept changing their messaging, the algorithm couldn’t pin point them towards the right set of users. Additionally, the cost per install also kept increasing. They immediately rectified this and ran a few ads during the tournament and saw a positive impact not only on Freehit’s downloads but the cost per install also came down by 1/3rd.
Now as a policy, they keep their ads constant at least for 10 days if not more. In content marketing, they have a bank of words along with its definition and social media posts have animated videos explaining those words with a link to their videos on the app. The social media team blogs about new releases and various topics related to education.
Lessons learnt so far
Probing Pranay on his learnings while building Mocept, he says, “We are beginning to approach corporate and educational institutions for partnerships. However, we should have done that earlier.” But when you set up a business the initial time and energy goes into getting the sales and marketing operations right, he adds. With restricted resources, the founders were managing day-to-day sales and marketing functions and missed out on starting with partnerships early. However, Mocept’s journey is all about learning from their decisions. The company is in active discussions with organized coaching institutes to license Illustrate – the video dictionary.
Advice for early stage startups
Their suggestion to the early stage startups – Start early in sales & marketing. Make sure that the sales people tie up the idea with the product and they are aware of every aspect of the product. Recruit the right people in every function in the company.
Mocept employs around 20 people. Their apps – Illustrate and Freehit – have been downloaded 2,50,000 times. On an average, 40,000 words a week are being searched in Illustrate and 30% of the total traffic is for the visual element of the app. The company says that 12,000 to 15,000 videos are being watched on a weekly basis. They have been features in the Tech30 startups by YourStory. Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi has featured them as the top 5 apps for GRE, GMAT preparation. The company has raised two rounds of seed funding. They will be launching a weekly mega quiz in their app Freehit, where the winner can walk away with a cash prize of Rs 10,000. The only change in this contest would be that a player will have to play for 10-15 minutes and get the answers right, naturally. Freehit can be played in Hindi, however, more languages will be added to it shortly. The company plans to add other languages like Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil.