Stories from the East is an ongoing series of articles where I interview founders from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. This week, we are going to sunny Australia, where I spoke with Hari Krishna, the indie maker of some of the coolest products I have ever seen. Hari made quite a few products, including a tool for digital nomads to figure out visa requirements for countries they are visiting, a cryptocurrency price alert tracker, and a file management application. I hope you enjoy the interview with this cool indie maker from the East.

Building micro-startups

“I’m a computer science graduate from India, now living in Sydney. I quit my job two years ago to live the life of an indie maker. I enjoy travelling and building products. I love building solutions to the problems I face. When I’m not building anything, I take a couple of months to recharge, visit new countries, and enjoy the lifestyle South-East Asia has to offer.”

“I have built a few products in the last two years. Visa List, ACrypto and AnExplorer are among the top revenue generators for me. I try to focus on one product at a time. Once it’s stable, which is usually around the six-month mark, I put it on autopilot and start working on a new product. I do spend time fixing and updating my older products every now and then, as they keep on generating revenue.”

“I love solving problems I face and building something useful for others along the way. So far I have been pretty good at it. Currently, I’m busy growing Visa List so it reaches its potential, and I have a couple of ideas on what to do next. I call these micro-startups, as they have potential but I do try to keep them simple so I can manage them while building new ones.”

“As I manage a very diverse collection of products, many on different platforms, I have various monetisation models. For example, I use a freemium and premium model for AnExplorer, a simple yet powerful file management app for Android. For ACrypto, I use a subscription model with a free version of the app and a paid one for access to some more advanced features. For Visa List, I have direct partnerships with Skyscanner and Booking.com as well as visa processing agencies. I also monetise using ads in most of my products.”

Make a small difference in the world

“We face problems every day, every waking hour of our lives. Most of us just don’t see them as problems. Very few notice them as problems, and even fewer think they can be solved. Only the rare few decide to solve these problems. I believe I’m that type of person, and I have been trying my best to do that. All my products so far have been a result of that philosophy: solving tiny to medium to large problems people face in their everyday life.”

“If you take Visa List for example, the biggest pain point people have is being able to get to the correct visa requirements from the plethora of contradicting, confusing and outdated information out there and along the way know what their travel opportunities are. If you think about it, it’s a very common problem for the majority of the world if you leave the top five countries where people can go anywhere.” 

“My products are hardly for a very small niche. They cater to mostly very large audiences and are mostly global like my ACrypto app which helps people get alerts and maintain a portfolio of different cryptocurrencies. My motto is to make a small difference in the world.”

Master your organic channels

“The best marketing strategy is to master your organic channels of distribution. I believe in being frugal and spending money only if it’s necessary. Why spend money for paid marketing when you can get it done for free?”

“Like for my mobile apps, the simplest organic tactic is to do App Store Optimisation (ASO) till you get it right. Building a landing page for your apps also really helps. Once you have done that, then try to find groups and communities who would be potentially interested in your product. Be thoughtful: never spam but share it like you would share a product you love.”

“For web apps, the biggest challenge is to tame the SEO beast. But if you get it right, your servers will go down so many times, which is a good thing. I try to join subreddits which I believe will benefit from Visa List and I share it there. I also shared it on Product Hunt and HackerRank. So far I have been successful and even went viral. Many news publications picked it up and it’s been wonderful.”

“Launch marketing is good to get the initial traction but it doesn last long and you have to invest in organic channels from the get go. It’s not easy but you have to keep experimenting and keep at it till you crack it. Along the way you may have to learn a lot of new things but if you believe in your products you will be able to make them successful.”

Behind the curtains

“I have a pretty wide range of tech stacks, as I have built on Android, iOs and also web apps. I don’t believe a tech stack drives a product and its innovations. It’s the other way around. So I have always learned and used tech stack as and when needed.”

“For mobile apps, I mostly use Firebase for real-time databases, push notification, authentication, analytics and more. I use Firebase cloud functions for backend as its so simple and easy which removes all pain points and lets you focus on what you want to build.”

“For web apps, I obviously use a different stack. I learned and built an MVP of Visa List in three weeks using VueJS, which I think is the best JavaScript framework out there. I used NuxJS framework for PWA, AMP and SSR with the Vuetify library for the UI. For backend, I use Go Lang with MySQL. Visa List is hosted on Google Cloud Platform’s Compute Engine. I use heavy caching on Cloudflare CDN and on the frontend and backend levels as well.”

The build-break lifestyle

“I love travelling and I do keep on working when I’m travelling. My usual pattern is building for two months and taking a break for two months. I call it the Build-Break Lifestyle. During my building time I’m continuously working, and during my break time, I’m travelling and not working as much. This year I travelled to Japan, Nepal, the Philippines and India for three months. I would like to keep on travelling and on shipping products as well.”

“Visiting new countries during the breaks gives me a new perspective. As I’m naturally curious, I keep questioning things and once in awhile I stumble upon something interesting. This then gets added to my pool of potential ideas. I feel countries should never be a barrier, but rather should be an enabler.”

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