The introduction of telco APIs to Sri Lanka served as a facilitator of the app economy. They allowed local developers to leverage the power of telecom networks to build apps and generate revenue. For some like Ashen Gomez – Managing Director of Mobisec, the introduction of these APIs was the gateway to entrepreneurship and building their own company.
Of course, much has changed over the years since their introduction. Nevertheless, Mobisec, which was a company born in the early years of telco APIs, continues to thrive. Having ridden the wave of change, Ashen introduces Mobisec as, “A mobile applications and IT product development company. Mobisec currently caters to the local market with its telco-based mobile applications and smartphone applications.”
In the 5 years since its inception, Mobisec has grown from a startup to a budding corporation with a team of 25. In that time, it has also built a series of products, which are used by individuals islandwide. You can find their products among the range of value-added services offered by nearly all telecom operators and also on the Google Play Store. So how exactly did they get here?
The birth of Mobisec
Officially, Mobisec was born in 2014. Yet, it’s true origins date back to 2012. It was around this time, Ashen began tinkering with the art of building applications using Telco APIs on Dialog’s Ideamart and Etisalat’s Appzone platforms, while studying at the University of Peradeniya. He deemed this to be an enjoyable hobby.
After he graduated, he immediately decided to walk down the path of entrepreneurship as he realized corporate life wasn’t for him. Initially, he created a bunch of USSD apps. Sadly, many of these failed and there were only a few apps that were generating revenue. Yet, it was only a matter of time before his fortunes changed.
When the time inevitably came in 2014, Ashen had money to invest in his own company. Ashen registered Mobisec as a company alongside his wife as the cofounder. During the initial days, Ashen and his wife worked out in their small living room and exercised a hands-on approach to develop new products. At the time, they also hired Isuru a developer to build and maintain their apps. Isuru and Ashen met as batchmates at the University of Peradeniya. Today, Isuru remains with the company, managing the development of several of its products.
As the team expanded over time, Ashen shifted his focus towards business development, marketing, and other aspects to drive the growth of the company. Naturally, this growth meant the team quickly outgrew their workspaces. In 2017, Mobisec moved out of Ashen’s living room and into an office in Orion City, Colombo 09. Just 3 years later, they outgrew it. At the beginning of this year, the team expanded once again and moved into a shiny new office in Borella.
The Mobisec Ecosystem
Today, Mobisec is a team of 25 people and has a suite of products, with a number of them having reached maturity. A prime example would be its very first product, which is Wendesiya.lk. This is a reverse bidding online portal that allows you to participate in ongoing competitions and win amazing gifts such as smartphone, motorbikes, air tickets, TVs etc. The catch is that the winner isn’t the one with the highest bid but rather the lowest unique bid. Hence, it is referred to as a reverse bidding portal.
Another one of its products is QuickJob.lk, which is available both as a website and value-added service on Dialog. As its name suggests, this is an employment platform. Through the website, you can search for different kinds of part-time jobs available in different cities and provinces. By signing up for the value-added service, you can receive alerts of any job offers via SMS according to the preferred field of work.
Over the years, these products have gained a sizable following. “We’re very much vested in the development of our products,” says Pradeep Dahanayake – Head of HR & Operations at Mobisec. The company actively works towards building smart and reliable applications with the aim of improving the lifestyles of people. Whenever it designs a new app, the company always aims to analyse a problem that can be resolved with an app, and focuses on providing the solution in a user-friendly manner.
The challenges Mobisec faced along the way
Of course, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. “Since we didn’t take any external investment, everything was a challenge. In our early days, any revenue we generated went back into the business,” says Ashen recalling the early days of Mobisec. He considers those challenges to be a positive experience. For they taught him some invaluable lessons.
The most crucial one being the value of cash flow. When Ashen embarked on this journey, he had a deadly assumption. Like countless other developers, he supposed, “This is a great product! Once I build it, people will gladly pay for it.” The thought of marketing his products or identifying customer needs never once crossed his mind.
Nevertheless, after learning these important lessons, Ashen reorganized how Mobisec should work to ensure uninterrupted cash flow. Around the same time, the company also invested in its marketing capabilities. For Mobisec, the latter is a unique challenge as it has products in a number of different verticals.
Nevertheless, Thushan Wijayasuriya – Marketing Manager at Mobisec, welcomes the challenge Speaking to ReadMe, he shares that the company is always expanding its portfolio of products to cater to different needs and desires of customers. He added, “This is why we leverage many channels to reach our potential customers and develop a community around our products. With their feedback, Mobisec constantly experiments to add more value to them.”
The future of Mobisec
When asked about the future, the Mobisec team looks forward to it with optimism in their eyes. Describing his vision for the future, Ashen shared, “When smartphone apps arrived, everyone assumed USSD apps would die. But what we’ve noticed with our apps like QuickJob, is that there is a growing market for elementary applications. Newer technologies may change the form these applications take. But that’s something we can easily adapt to. As long as we’re solving real problems, technology is merely an enabler.”
To that end, in the coming years, Mobisec will be working towards improving its products to provide reliable solutions for modern problems its customers are facing. Pradeep goes onto add that the company is also actively exploring the possibility of offering its development services. He went on to say, “Our primary focus is to develop our products and serve our users. But we have been approached with requests for our expertise and development services. It requires a different set of capabilities, which we hope to build inhouse as we actively explore this route of expansion this year.”
Ultimately, for Mobisec, the business strategy and future plan is to expand its products and services to many potential countries. I believe there’s a good market beyond Sri Lanka, especially in South Asian countries,” says Ashen elaborating his future plans. Hence, even now the company is actively recruiting new talents. Once the right team is in place, Ashen is confident that it’s only a matter of time before they build a global company.