REENA KARIM speaks to husband and wife team Amit and Bandhna Bajaj about their maiden mobile app project called Envylope.
The tradition of giving and receiving envelopes with money during holidays and special occasions is nothing new for us Asians. But if you have ever been the recipient of more than a handful of these you are well aware of the inconveniences that come with it. For instance, the collection and accounting of these envelopes is tedious, not to mention that someone somewhere needs to sit down and document it on an excel file or a diary, which you would then have to store as reference for future gift-giving. Now imagine what if that diary or the excel sheet is lost. How would you remember what Mrs Sharma gave you for your engagement and how much should you reciprocate it with? Giving more is great, but what if you gave less… It is exactly with this dilemma in mind that husband and wife team Amit and Bandhna Bajaj came up with Envylope, an app designed after the lafaffa concept. Just like the simplicity of its idea, the design of the app allows users to easily save and organise records in a digital format, which is then readily available on their phone.
Amit and Bandhna, both 29, are originally from Malaysia and Singapore, respectively, but are based in London. Amit is a Mobile Security consultant and confesses that his whole life is in his phone. Bandhna on the other hand is the complete opposite of him and brushed up her knowledge on technology only when this opportunity arose. Via email, the enthusiastic couple share their inspiration behind the idea and give us a run down of all that which goes into the making of an app.
How did you come up with the concept?
Bandhna: After our wedding, my mother and sister made a list on Excel of all the money envelopes we received. I’ve been using this list as a reference when I attend people’s weddings too. I often travel to Asia to attend weddings and other family events, and my lafaffa notebook comes with me. But on one particular trip I forgot it in London. It was tragic, and I ended up guessing what to put in the envelope. When I came back to London I discussed this concept with my husband. That’s when we had a light bulb moment.
What made you zero in on a niche such as lafaffa?
Bandhna: Asians give money envelopes for numerous functions. In my opinion, it’s a tradition that is not going to die. We wanted one go-to app that kept a track of your personal giving and receiving of money envelopes.
“Envylope”, what was the inspiration behind the name?
Bandhna: We wanted a name that was one word and catchy so that everyone would remember. It was also important that the name fit perfectly under the icon. We wanted a word that was also unique and easily searchable on the App Store – this allows for better SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Our app is about envelopes, and the name had to have an essence of that. Envylope is meant to be pronounced as ‘envelope’ with a tinge of envy in it. Money inevitably brings about envy.
What motivated you to create the app?
Amit: It’s been my personal dream to create an app because I have always wanted to experience the feeling of creating a product that people have a use for. This was my Everest. When my wife came up with the idea, I wanted to take up the challenge and create it by myself. A past experience with a developer had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I have trust issues with outsourcing. Only if you develop the app by yourself do you have complete control over every pixel.
Who came up with the design?
Bandhna: I came up with the user interface and icon design. I believe visual aesthetics is as important as functionality for any app. The process of designing Envylope was challenging as I did not know where to start. I took online courses and read forums to begin the process in Adobe Photoshop. The icon itself took me almost a week to perfect. It’s something so trivial to most people, but we wanted every aspect of the design to be stylish. I wanted there to be different themes in the app to match multiple personalities.
What type of inventor programme did you use?
Amit: I did not use any inventor programme for Envylope. Using these drag and drop tools are less time consuming for the developer, but it compromises on the quality and functionality of the app. I wrote every line of code by myself. There were 4,137 lines in total.
Describe some of the app’s features?
Bandhna: Envylope works in a logical fashion, akin to writing in a notebook. I wanted the shift from writing in a notebook to using an app to be seamless. Users simply add an entry with the information they want stored (person, date, event, amount given or received, and any additional notes). It also includes a timeline view of chronological entries, and easy filtering by person, date or event. There is also a PDF functionality where users can email and print their list of entries. A key feature is that your entire database can be backed up. This ensures that even if you lose your phone you will not lose your data, unlike the tragedy of losing a notebook.
What challenges did you face?
Amit: The question should be what challenge didn’t we face! It was extremely tough. I had to make sure everything worked the way the user expected it to. When we look at apps, we take for granted the work that has gone into them.
Bandhna: We literally started by drawing it out on a blank paper and looked at each other wide-eyed — how is this ever going to translate into an app? The answer to this was our biggest challenge.
How did you go about the marketing and promotion?
Bandhna: I read many articles on SEO and did a few online courses on marketing. I applied tips that I had gathered and learnt what worked and what didn’t for us. We have been promoting Envylope on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, we have given out flyers at Indian wedding fairs, and intend to have a stall in the future for greater exposure.
How many downloads are you at presently?
Bandhna: That’s a question we have kept unanswered since the release of Envylope. People tend to associate numbers with success. If I were to tell you we had one download as opposed to 500K downloads, your perception of Envylope would change. I like the focus to be on the idea and how this product truly helps in keeping lafaffas organised. With that said, when we do reach a million downloads, you will see it on all of our social media as a form of celebration.
How have the users responded to the app?
Amit: It makes me really happy to know that people are using something they find useful that we created. The response that will stick with me from one particular user was “You created something that we didn’t know we needed.”
What did your family and friends think when you told them about the idea and then went on to develop and release the app?
Bandhna: We actually didn’t tell anyone about our app until it was released. This might seem crazy, but we wanted to keep it as a personal challenge. We honestly thought it might get rejected by Apple due to the fact that we both had no prior experience. After it was approved by Apple on the very first submission, we told everyone about it. They were extremely supportive and very happy with our achievement.
Published in Masala October, 2014