From dorm room to board room 🚀, the journey of Urban Health

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·Nov 15, 2022·

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“A great product has very few things. It's like a red button. Whenever you open, you know, you just have to press the button, and it will deliver you the value.”

That’s from Kumar Shivang, co-founder and CTO of Urban Health. In this edition of Software Junkies, we’ll explore his and Urban health’s journey. Starting from the dorm rooms of IIT Kanpur to raising $3.8M from the likes of 3one4 capital, Venture Highway and various angels.

Humble beginnings of their product "blissfully" 😌

Kumar Shivang (left) with his co-founders Kshitij Jaggi (middle) and Rishabh Sahu (right) at code-fun-do showcase 2017 Kumar Shivang (left) with his co-founders Kshitij Jaggi (middle) and Rishabh Sahu (right) at code-fun-do showcase 2017

Things started in their 3rd year of college. From the onset, they knew that they wanted to build something in wellness. Blissfully was the first approach to that.

Blissfully was a “wide app”.

“Our primary motivation to build the product was to do lots of experiments. It was made like an audio player, but from tech POV, could easily be converted to a magazine with a blog structure as well.”

He wanted to experiment fast, and this set-up was ideal for iterating quickly.

Early on itself, being 3 engineers building a consumer app, design was an obvious challenge. Being strapped for cash, a problem then, became a blessing in hindsight. But running a lean tech team with low cash wasn’t the only challenge. Due to low resources they had to catchup on things outside tech. Kumar says:

“I feel, even as a techie, it's great to have a good design background. Doing design courses when starting goes a long way, giving a sense, why we are doing this or adding that element.”

Got more than 5000 users in just 2 days!!! 🤯

Now that they had a product, they wanted to get it to users. Being broke college students, they didn’t have any dough for the advertising overlords. So, the only option to get users was by growth hacking.

Rewind to 2018 and Baba Ramdev was launching a messaging app, Kimbho. The interest from Indian masses, that too in their target group (TG) was palpable.

At 5 am in the morning, Shivang got the idea of how to leverage this. He called his co-founders, and they put Kimbho in their app store listing.

Boom!! Within a day, they got more users than all previous months combined.

70 iterations in 3 months on the same product 🏃

Iteration is the mother of all startups, and not doing them enough is the grim reaper. Here, Shivang and his team leveraged blogs. They observed blogs were getting 10x higher traffic, so it was easier to experiment with it and find out what users want.

It was a validation hack, and things started working.

They were so successful that the founder of Sharechat even suggested it was time to ring the bells of all the VCs in town.

But they felt that something was missing. Who was their TG? They had users from all around the world and tiers. On top, they had no idea how to monetize them. This led them to rethink their “market” bit of Product-Market Fit.

But why Yoga? 🤔

For tier two & tier three audiences, it was more of a luxury to spend money on wellness. So, they focused on the tier-one group. They saw higher traction on Yoga content. That was a sign to continue Yoga even though they weren’t sure about it earlier.

That’s when they started developing the next MVP. Urban Yogi was born. This time they knew what to make, so Urban Yogi was a “narrow app” (i.e., a focused product), as opposed to blissfully being a jack of all trades. This directly ties back to their red-button philosophy.

Going global is no “Technical” walk in the park! 🥵

Everyone knows going global is hard, but how it impacts tech is rarely discussed. Subhash Choudhary recently discussed how hard it is to serve a global audience in this Twitter thread.

This was a challenge for UH from day 1. Questions like handling time zones in the database and ensuring performance across regions on a new feature.

While doing gamification, they had a feature that sounded simple on the surface, but it got complicated when implementing the logic worldwide.

What years of product building taught UH team 🙇‍♂️🙇

When Shivang started, he was more attached to tech problems and code. Now he tries to understand what customers need. This perspective shift happens when you move a bit far from your individual contribution and see the broader picture.

“My first question now is what needs to be removed. A better way to look at things is what distracts the user from doing the right thing.”

Finally, we asked him when to start-up? Right out of college, 2 yrs. down the line or later. And his answer was resoundingly ASAP. “If you’re in tech and want to start your own startup, just get started. No company will give you as much responsibility as your own startup. If there is no financial crisis as such, you should start”

What's cooking at UH?? 👀

Urban health is on its growth rocket ship! They are actively hiring Visual designers and copywriters. For more, check them out here!

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