Inspired behind venturing into creating Veera?

Since college, I had always wanted to start something of my own, which was a major reason I chose to return to India instead of staying in the US after my post graduation. My experiences at McKinsey and Falcon Edge, as well as with several funds and companies in between, gave me the opportunity to learn about some incredible industries, companies and leaders, and to support them in their growth journeys. Work took me to various parts of the world, and gave me insights from countries outside India, and from both successes and failures, preparing me for the moment I would venture out on my own. What was starting to take shape in my mind was to leverage technology to eventually make digital services (especially financial services) easily accessible and affordable for the common man, particularly in India where this problem is more acute.

Veera felt like the perfect idea, at the perfect time, with the right team. In 2020, I reconnected with a former colleague and close friend of over 20 years (now cofounder) and the other founding members of Veera. We realized we shared a common goal of doing something beneficial for the country, particularly in making digital services more accessible. In mid-2021, we began investigating how a browser could help solve the problem. Our extensive fieldwork indicated that the product needed to be more intuitive, localized, flexible and innovative to meet the unique tastes and needs of Indian consumers. Towards the end of 2022, we developed a minimum viable product with a few essential features, which confirmed our initial hypothesis on product-market fit through excellent traction and user feedback.

In 2023, we started working on a much more comprehensive version of the app, incorporating all the insights we had gathered. We launched the first version of this in September 2023 to let users test it out and a more complete version in February 2024. While we are no longer in beta, we have a long product map with multiple innovations, add-ons and conveniences to come in the following months that we believe will delight our users.

Could you share the story behind the name ‘Veera’ and what it signifies for the brand?

We debated quite a bit on the name. Eventually, Veera stood out tall, because of its connotations around courage and kinship (veere = brother in Punjabi). It just fit perfectly into our company’s ethos and what we were setting out to do, as well as being a constant reminder of our mission.

What specific pain points of Indian internet users does Veera address?

We realized very early on that the mobile internet experience in India, while ubiquitous, leaves much to be desired. The browser in particular – which serves as the window to the world wide web – was designed to be desktop first while most users in our country were experiencing the internet on their phone. So we built our browser from Say 1 with just the mobile phone user in mind and made simple UX decisions that made mobile browsing easier (for example, menu items at the bottom of the screen).

Secondly most websites had way too many ads; a leading cause of this is that CPMs in India are extremely low, so to compensate, additional inventory was created which really led to a sub-par and bloated experience for users. So rather than encourage the clutter, we provided users with one of the best ad blockers so that they did not have to compromise with a poor ad-riddled experience any more.

Thirdly, we created options for users, a first among browsers. This meant offering customers lots of content consumption opportunities, casual gaming, frequently accessed content such as an always-on cricket widget, in-built commerce and so on.

Fourthly, while “an app for X” was a common refrain in the tech world, the reality on the ground was quite. Limited memory and processing power in the average phone made it cumbersome tod download multiple apps, create storage issues and slowed down the phones considerably. Instead, we decided that simple web-friendly experiences and progressive web-app experiences were the indeed of the hour for most users in India. One of the areas we optimized for this was in gaming where we have some of India’s top casual games as available to play without downloading any apps on the Veera Games section.

Lastly, we believe that internet journeys should remain private and is the business of no one other than the user. So we ensured that our browser blocks all trackers and crawlers for a safer and more private experience. This in turn will hopefully make people feel more secure about browsing and transacting online every single day.

⁠How does Veera differentiate itself from other mobile browsers in India as well as the international market?

Veera has been designed with a unique focus. Our India-first and user-first approach ensures that users love and engage with Veera. We started by making it the most user-friendly browser for the Indian audience, who predominantly access the internet via smartphones. Our features are straightforward and function effortlessly, without the need for complicated extensions which users need to find, activate and use (and that is if their browser even supports extensions which most do not). We’ve also prioritized speed and seamless performance, constantly benchmarking against global standards to ensure we are faster than other browsers. Our advanced technology makes this possible.

We believe the browser needed to evolve from a basic utility to a true gateway to the internet, reflecting its role for mobile users in India. Key benefits for Veera users include third-party ad blocking, faster browsing speeds, enhanced safety and security, and tailored, engaging content.

Can you delve into the technical innovations behind Veera that enable faster and safer browsing?

A browser has a lot going on underneath the hood, with every page load being an outcome of hundreds of tasks to coordinate the downloading of data and rendering the page. Some of these tasks are redundant and don’t add value to the user, e.g., metrics and reporting. These tasks are removed to reduce the burden of loading a page. Our ad-blocking also reduces the amount of work required to load a page by cutting down on additional tasks for loading ads and tracking scripts, thereby saving precious bandwidth as well as processing time. These blocked ads and scripts that also pose a security risk as they often allow third-parties to load their own code which could potentially be harmful.

Veera boasts an ad-blocking feature. How do you balance ad blocking with providing a revenue stream for content creators?

Ad blocking is a  feature introduced as a consequence of websites being overloaded with ads to an extent where the content was rarely visible. This problem is worse on mobile devices since ad sizes don’t scale down proportionately and instead end up occupying a larger amount of screen space. We carefully curate ads on pre-defined spaces, thereby providing a balance between revenue streams and an excellent user experience.

Most content creators primarily make money from branded content where products are integrated into the content itself and then distributed across their social media channels like say Instagram. We don’t affect their capability to do so at all.

What kind of tailored content can users expect from Veera and how is it curated?

We tied up with some of the largest publishers in the country to provide the best possible content for users. Whether this is Times Internet, or Sportskeeda, we’ve looked at every possible content type. Additionally our product and engineering teams have built customized delivery mechanisms for this content which is constantly learning and evolving, thereby ensuring that the readers’ preferences dictate what content they see more of.

And in a lot of cases, we’re trying to make the consumption experience more intuitive – the way we have done for cricket.

With over 1 billion smartphone users in India, how does Veera plan to reach and engage this vast and diverse audience?

At this point, we are still taking baby steps. We crossed the 1mn user mark in April far ahead of when we expected to do so. And our focus is not ‘growth at all costs’ but is instead to make sure our current users get the best possible browsing experience.

That said, our focus will be to attract a highly engaged, sticky audience that is loyal to Veera.

And our growth will eventually be fueled by a combination of the right strategic partnerships and smart marketing to reach the audience we want to.

Can you share some user feedback or success stories that highlight Veera’s impact on the mobile browsing experience in India?

When people write in to us and say things like “Great app, 5 stars all the way” or “can’t use any other browser after using Veera” we definitely feel validated.

But as nice as it is to focus on the super positive feedback, we really tend to focus more on the feedback that gives us suggestions on what we can fix. The team is constantly reaching out to customers to understand their experience and how we can improve it. And our design evolution for Khazana, our cricket widget, our gaming platform, our content additions are all courtesy feedback from customers. And you will see more cool features down the road resulting from the feedback we have received.

⁠What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while developing and launching Veera?

Veera leverages the Chromium open source project as the foundation of its browser. This is a large and complex project with many moving parts and is a huge codebase that has been developed over time by large teams. We mitigate some of this complexity by focusing on adding features and improving the user experience rather than trying to change the core underlying rendering and mechanics of the browser. However this was a mammoth challenge that required specific and rare skillsets and expertise, which we were fortunate to have. We also have to cater to a very wide audience, where our users all have lots of great feedback and ideas for improving the browser. Combining all of this information and feeding it back into our roadmap / feature set design continues to be a challenging but fun ongoing exercise.

⁠Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers/audience about Veera or your journey as an entrepreneur?

It’s honestly been a rewarding experience with many nerve wracking and anxiety inducing moments. My son just turned 18 years, and I feel like I’m going through the process of parenting all over again with all the associated joys and all the anxieties. The only difference being that I feel like a rookie parent all over again. But there is absolutely no way I’d trade this for anything else right now.

How do you envision Veera influencing the mobile internet ecosystem in India over the next five years?

Our earliest goal was to make the internet a simpler, easier, safer and more intuitive experience for the average person. This will continue to be our guiding principle in the future as well.

We will consider ourselves successful if people feel safer online, are happier to transact, have peace of mind when they browse and as a consequence use the internet in a more productive manner every single day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *