Twins Srihari and Shrinidhi Karanth, both computer engineers, have a passion for website and app development. Even as they worked in different companies, the brothers dabbled in app development in their downtime. The twins were particularly curious about how one’s smartphone can be used to ensure the user’s safety. This idea gave birth to their startup, TrackMyPhones.
It all started as a hobby in 2014, when the brothers developed an app called Thief Tracker, which takes a picture from the front camera of a smartphone and mails it to the user when someone tries to unlock the device and fails multiple times. Soon they noticed that the app had garnered attention globally, seeing 15,000-20,000 installs every day.
“Many of Thief Tracker users sent us images of the thief who they got in their mail after losing their mobile in a bus or somewhere else. This was encouraging enough for us to develop similar apps that provide security to mobiles when lost/stolen,” says Srihari.
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The success of Thief Tracker spurred the brothers to start up with TrackMyPhones in 2016. They then launched a new version of the Thief Tracker app, calling it ‘Track My Phone‘.
The app can track the location of a phone using the website, and send remote commands such as blowing a siren, taking pictures and videos, making a call, enabling or disabling the GPS, data connection, Wi-Fi, etc. Srihari says the company has about 20 apps focused on anti-theft, remote monitoring, parental control, and women’s safety.
“You can keep track of dependents when they are out with ‘Track My Phone’ app. There is a high possibility of getting your lost phone back,” the brothers explain.
The founders say all their apps are free and each one can solve various problems. For instance, the Women Safety app can record audio and 20-second-long videos from the phone, take pictures from the front and back camera, transmit the location, and emit a loud siren when a user presses the panic button. Srihari says this not only helps family and friends track the location of the user, but also helps in tracking the surroundings and pictures of the perpetrators in case of a crime being committed.
The Chat Tracker app allow users to track incoming chat messages from WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Hike, Hangout, etc remotely, while the ‘Remote Messaging and Call Tracker’ app allow users to remotely track calls made/received and SMS sent/received along with the location. Another app, Tracking Smartphone, tracks phones to control them remotely from the Track My Phone website or using SMS.
The apps use Google Cloud Messaging to communicate with the website. The founders add that all their apps are in compliance with app store policies on data protection and usage.
“We have more than nine million users worldwide, and this base is growing rapidly, including four lakh Track My Phone app active users worldwide,” says Srihari, adding that all their apps can be used anywhere in the world.
Two to tango
Srihari says that as the business was born out of their passion for building apps and websites, they did not require any external funding or the need to have a large team. “The two of us run the show,” he says, and adds this also keeps a control on the operations cost, which is no more than Rs 30,000- Rs 35,000 a month.
“I believe a person with an innovative software idea should not jump to look for external funding. With an investor on your head, you will have to stick to the idea and definite timelines, and provide weekly updates on the progress. We were fortunate enough to generate a handsome revenue with our apps and hence there was no need to look for external funding,” says Srihari.
The company is profitable and earns revenue from ads in the apps, he says. Initially the revenue was few thousand dollars a month but since last year it has seen an increase by 300 per cent on the basis of advertising. “The revenue is good enough to pay for all resources (AWS, Hosting Server, etc) apart from helping us make a comfortable living,” Srihari adds.
“Since our apps are free, the only challenge is to make users aware of these apps and they will be happy to use it,” he adds. So, what keeps the brothers going?
Customer feedback, they say. Quoting author Ken Blanchard, Srihari says, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
“We might not be champions, but great feedback from customers is why we have all our 40+ apps provided to users completely free of charge. The apps have helped our users locate their lost/misplaced/stolen phones, and helped keep their families safe. We love it when we receive positive feedback,” he says.
Srihari says many users have even dropped by at the Bengaluru-based startup’s office to give a gift or to personally thank the founders.
Until six months ago, the twins were running TrackMyPhones, and holding on to their respective jobs. Now, however, they devote all their time on developing new apps and on business development. The founders are also exploring how they can help someone retrieve their phone if, after stolen, the settings have been reset to factory settings. They are in talks with phone manufacturers for this.
“We will continue to make innovative apps for end users, and will also look to move to the B2B space to get a stable revenue,” says Srihari.