Interview With Shankar Uprety: Founder of Hamro Patro
Picture Courtesy: The Deer Express Club
Shankar Uprety, a leading figure in Nepalese mobile application industry with some of the most popular and downloaded apps in Nepal like Hamro Patro, Hamro Nepali Keyboard and Nepali dictionary, had a very keen interest in computer since his early days. This immense interest paved his path to be one of the renowned developers in Nepal. He was in Deerwalk Institute of Technology to share his life experience, struggles and to motivate the students.
- What made you choose IT as a profession?
When I was in class seven, the school had bought a couple of computers and started an optional computer class. Although I had seen the computers only in the news, I had always been fascinated by it. So, I was the first one to apply for the computer class.
In the first class itself, the teacher showed the computer to us. I thought it was just like a TV. But, I was amazed when it displayed "Swagatam" in Nepali font. I thought the computer knew the Nepali language until my teacher told me it had been programmed into the computer.
I found it very interesting and it became my inspiration to pursue a career in IT.
- How did Hamro Patro start?
In 2008, when I was working for D2Hawkeye, I got a scholarship to study at Boston University. When traveling to Boston, I took a Nepali Patro (calendar) along with me. It served me well for a year but eventually it outdated. Obviously, I couldn't order it from Nepal every time so I started thinking of alternatives. That is when the idea of Hamro Patro came to me.
- How did Hamro Patro start trending?
My targeted audience for the app was Nepalese people living abroad. Although I received positive feedback, the users were limited. But, in 2012, android mobile users drastically increased in Nepal and I saw a potential market there. So, I released my first android version of ‘Hamro Patro’ in Play Store. Then, the app saw an exponential growth. Now, a lot more people in Nepal are using the app than Nepalese living abroad.
- What is the current status of Hamro Patro users?
There are altogether 25 lakh android and 5 lakh IOS downloads of Hamro Patro. But, the active users count to 7.5 lakh.
- How did Hamro Keyboard start?
In 2014, penetration of mobile use in Nepal increased rapidly but there was no Nepali keyboard in mobile. It is difficult to type in Nepali and there were only Hindi google input tools but no system integrated Nepali keyboard. This caused inefficiency for Nepali users to type in Nepali. So, I developed system integrated Nepali keyboard. It is one of the fastest downloaded Nepali apps; almost 1 million downloads in 18 months. Recently, the app crossed 2 million downloads.
- What are the key features of Hamro Keyboard?
Auto correction, word search, auto suggestions. I implemented almost all the computer science technique to develop Hamro Keyboard. 50,000 data are compressed to implement efficient word search within the time-frame of 60 milliseconds. It also suggests most frequently used words.
- Could you tell more about your time at Silicon Valley?
I worked for a company called Symantec in Silicon Valley. Before working at the company, I had a feeling that I knew everything but later I realized that I still had so many things to learn. I learned that good environment and good mentor-ship are very important. One of the distinguishing thing about Silicon Valley is its culture of sharing ideas among each other. The people in Silicon Valley also have a lot of money to work with which allows them to take risks. It is definitely an exciting place to work.
In Silicon Valley, if you are an expert in one thing then everyone will assign you the same task and work can become boring. So, after three years I left Symantec. Hamro Patro was also rapidly growing day by day so it made my decision easier.
- What are the basic strategies to develop an app?
First thing is your attitude towards your work. Search for problems and try solving it. If there is a problem somewhere then take it as an opportunity. If the problem has already been solved then you can try finding a more efficient solution. Market analysis is another important factor. The quality of the app is also very important and do not compromise on it. You should follow design guidelines so that it looks professional. Revenue is also very important because without it the app cannot sustain.
- Message to the IT students.
Make your foundation strong. Data structure and algorithm is very important so focus on it to solve interesting problems. Try to build something that you like. Even if you fail you will always learn something new.