|Charlie Lee, CEO & Co- Founder, True Balance
Please tell us more about your start-up.
Lee: True Balance is a prepaid mobile balance
manager application for android users, developed and maintained by Balance
Hero. With an ambitious vision of transforming the prepaid mobile management
landscape, True Balance, a free of charge mobile app, provides balance check,
call log; data pack assessment, and recharge service for prepaid accounts on
Android smart phones. The mobile application also provides real-time
information on best plans and offers from telecom operators, and helps users
earn and recharge their prepaid mobile accounts. Recently we also launched
advertising and recharging features on our platform. The newly added recharging
feature will enable users to recharge data at the click of a button which will
be available on the alarm screen of the app.
earlier inconvenient way of checking current mobile balance. The app passed the
10 million download mark in July 2016 in just 19 months into launch and has now
clocked over 30 million downloads.
1 in Lifestyle category & was No. 14 in Top Apps at Google Play India.
What was your idea/inspiration behind starting up a new venture in Mobile App
Lee: India is the second biggest market for
smartphone users in the world and with 220mn users it has even surpassed the US
market in terms of active unique smartphone users. This data speaks volumes for
the scale of the Indian market provides for any player in the mobile-connected
penetration in developing countries in mind, we thought India was the ideal
choice for us to launch our balance check app business. A growing user base,
increasing number of mobile internet users and favorable government policies
have also helped in making India’s business operating environment conducive for
start-ups. Our main aim behind launching True Balance was to empower Indian
users with an option to save money and solving key problems of smartphones
users across India.
What are business opportunities in Mobile App market segment in India?
Lee: India is now the fourth largest mobile app
economy, owing to the rapid increase in the number of Indians owning
smartphones. Along with the increase in these numbers, the amount of time
Indians spend on applications and smartphones is also increasing. India in
particular stand out for its staggering growth on engagement on apps.
biggest driver of downloads and revenue followed by video streaming which has
also seen a sharp growth in revenue. App
publisher revenue has also recorded an impressive year on year growth.
increased substantially over the years and is expected to amount to 20.1
billion by 2020. With app adoption growing rapidly in emerging markets like
India and Indonesia which have potential for further gains.
How has been your entrepreneurship journey so far?
Lee: In 2006, I quit Real Networks and started
Access Mobile, a business built on my experience in creating successful Mobile
VAS offerings. Some of my colleagues from Wider then joined the firm with me.
Access Mobile, headquartered in Seoul, has been providing apps – Magic SMS,
Picture SMS, SMARTEXT and other VAS offerings to telecom players in India
(Idea, Tata, Aircel, and Vodafone), Philippines and Indonesia. We have our own
offices in five countries, including China, and we operate with local partners
in Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Middle-East.
is in existence even now, the formal rise of smartphones started in 2008-09,
and the mobile ecosystem changed completely. We tried out many new ideas and
experimented with them within Access Mobile, but in 2014, we decided to launch
a very different product called True Balance under a brand new legal entity
called Balance Hero. I am still a shareholder in Access Mobile, but am running
Balance Hero as full-time CEO.
managed to garner extreme success in a short span of time, the expertise and
years of experience in the industry and made it possible to make True Balance
one of the fastest growing utility (balance checking) services, which also can
easily expand to mobile financial services. I feel that one needs to be in the
right place at the right time which we have been able to achieve so far,
Position is everything to grow a successful business and True Balance has that
What challenges do you face in your day to day professional life, if any?
Lee: I have been visiting or spending a significant
amount of time every year in India since 2002 and it’s like my second home now.
Frankly speaking, India is an open market when compared with a lot of other
Asian countries. Even when I was selling Mobile VAS offerings, the Telecom
Service Providers were very professional in their dealings.
the country and with each telco operating almost independently within each
circle, it took a lot of time to coordinate with every circle making payment
collections and so on. It has been a challenge to speed up development in the
ever changing Indian market .More importantly; our focus is to satisfy our
users by making user friendly, simplified low network & handset
How big is your team? Are you planning to hire more?
Lee: Currently we have a mixed culture with a
balanced 40 Koreans and 40 Indians working closely in our Gurgaon office. We
have witnessed tremendous growth in our short stint; our target is to double by
end of this year
Lee: We just introduced Ads and recharge model as a
part of our business model t monetize our platform and have received tremendous
response so far. Our aim is to increase user convenience as much as we can and
the latest additions will help improve the app for users in India to
effectively and easily recharge and manage their data usage. We are also
planning to open our services to postpaid users in India later this year. Apart
from this we are also looking at expanding operations in other markets like
Interviewed by Startup Terminal Bureau