Call drops are a way of life these days. So much so, that some users feel they are subscribing to call drops and not the actual ability to stay connected. But people, and technology, are getting the better of this problem. For instance, more people are now turning to apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger to make their calls, while connected to a wireless network. However, Wi-Fi is not ubiquitous in India, and you still might need to make a data call, especially to someone abroad.
This is where Nanu comes in.
While all VoIP apps lets you make data calls, Nanu lets you make a connection even when the connection is bad, really bad. “We innovated some technology that helps us deliver the same call quality as Skype and vibes, but at 80 per cent less bandwidth,” says Martyn Nygate, the CEO of Nanu. He says Nanu works perfectly well on 2G, congested 3G and 4G as well as Wi-Fi.
No wonder, the app is already so popular in India. In fact, about 75 per cent users of the latest version of the app are in India.
The Singapore-based VoIP startup has another, big, innovation. It has been able to spawn a business model by patching a sponsor message on top of the ringtone, inviting the caller to click the sponsor link at the end of his call. Nygate says this format means a lot of “positive brand image” as people are happy about the free call the brand has enabled.
“All forms of advertising from banners to pop-ups are harming brands. Our form of advertising is the only one which is beneficial, as it is completely non-intrusive,” he claims, adding how the advert stops as soon as the call is picked up.
Nanu had a very interesting start. “Three-four years ago we were trying to solve a particular problem in the maritime industry. Crew on ships use the satellite to call their families. Satellites are low speed, but high cost. The users could not make Skype calls because the data cost is so high. So the task we set ourselves was to create a VoIP solution that works over satellite,” explains Nygate, adding that when this succeeded they decided to broaden scope to telecom.
Guarded about his invention, Nygate says all he can disclose is that he did not touch codecs, as they could not be compressed any further. “We are using forks of commercially available codecs… I will have to kill you if I told you any further.” At the moment, he can’t even afford patents.
Nygate says they have created their own network so that they can control latency and call quality. “We have innovated all the technology behind it and hence control everything.”
The Nanu app was first launched in 2014, but the present app version is just a few months old. Nanu claims close to 5 million downloads now, but getting there hasn’t been easy. Nygate says the original app with Nanu to Nanu free was not much of a success as most people were making calls to other networks. “We discovered that for an app to app call, people need data. But most people have their data off in India. And this is why 95 per cent calls from Nanu initially were to offline numbers,” he explains, highlighting how this was the issue plaguing other OTT apps as well.
With version 2, Nanu’s India users were given 20 credits every day for Nanu out calls, adding up to 10 minutes of calls to offline numbers. “Then the miracle happened. Now, we have 2.5 million users on the version 2, of which 2 million are in. Our DAUs are 40 per cent and MAUs are 20 percent, significantly higher that anyone out there,” he says, suggesting only Facebook is likely to have better numbers.
Nygate says the app is adding 20,000 new users everyday, all organic, without any marketing. “It is growing by word of mouth. But I don’t want to grow any faster, as I don’t have the advertising revenues at the moment. We are paying the termination charges ourselves,” he says. “Any more than the 20 million calls we handle now and I will go bankrupt.”
Nygate believes the volumes are now good enough for advertisers to start paid campaigns. For now, he accepts it a struggle for Nanu, despite all the good things they have innovated on.