When Inha University students do not know what to eat for lunch, they use the INHARO application. Then who are the people who made the INHARO and why? Inha Times interviewed one of the operators of INHARO.
The Inha Times (IT): What was the motivation to create the INHARO application?
INHARO : In March 2014, we decided to form a team to compete in a contest, and we thought: “let’s make an app.”
We thought: ‘what is the most needed app for our team members?’, and we unanimously agreed on a guide to Inha University’s back gate stores. Our app, named INHARO, was thus uploaded to the Play Store on May 15th 2014, and is actually like a telephone book with 50 megabytes of volume. Right now, it is lighter than the earlier version because we have since uploaded the information of stores to our server.
IT: Were there any hardships while making the application?
INHARO : In the beginning this app didn’t use data, so we had to research more than 500 back gate businesses manually. It was hard for the planning team to investigate. We thought there might not be so many stores, but as we visited restaurants, bars, and cafes, the task became bigger than we initially thought. As we didn’t use network data, we didn’t use Google Maps or other such external maps, deciding that it should have its own originally designed map. So, the designer took much time to draw all the components of map like roads and buildings.
In terms of operating, these days the app has been criticised by some back gate business owners who have received some negative reviews. We allow users to leave one review per phone number currently, therefore it is reasonably reliable as not many people use more than one phone number, though some users feel uncomfortable because it does not yet have a log-in system via other methods such as Facebook or NAVER. This is something we are currently considering.
IT: When was your team’s most proud moment?
INHARO : At first, we thought let’s just upload our app to the store and let people that we know use it. But one of our makers suddenly promoted the app in INHA square. Because of that, were able to achieve the ‘most likes in INHA square’, as many students liked our app. Some students even use our app during their class presentations, and we feel proud because we are also helping students’ studies. In addition, when the media come to interview us like this, it keeps us motivated!
IT: Did you encounter any problems undertaking a startup as a university student?
INHARO : Dealing with relationships and finding work space are the most difficult aspects. Student status was an advantage because it allowed us some distance from real world. Students may not having enough expertise and experience to begin with, but that just helped us to work together and form a stronger bond. But, it also had its disadvantage, as even founding members had to sometimes choose between their other studies and working on the app, which can become a huge problem for startups like us with relatively few members.
Finding work space is a common problem for all startups, and we moved three times so far. Initial startups need to be stabilise, so needs places to work steadily, but the government and the university an usually only offers only a year’s guaranteed usage per space. Space in universities is already at a premium, so we can’t argue with them. It is of course easier to get space in a suburban area, but as students we can’t travel too far from the university campus.
IT: If INHARO is a free app, how you make any profit?
INHARO : Many people are curious about this. We started to make this app as a first project and not a main one, so, we didn’t apply an earnings model. As we have not yet implemented an earnings model, we are still offering the app for free. We started thinking about this again recently, but changes to the back gate stores are often too rapid, so we are concerned that the implementation of an earnings model might encounter many problems.
For the record, during the two months just before the beginning of the second semester this year, there were 50 stores which changed or vanished.
IT: Do you have any advice for students who wish to create their own startup business?
INHARO : There are many startups who have already enjoyed success far greater than ours, so we feel a little shy about answering this but will try our best! It is like communication in different languages; for instance, between a Korean who knows little English and an American who knows little Korean. They both know some general things, but find it hard to understand specific things, and need to work without the benefit of fully understanding those things. Narrowing these gaps in understanding is the most important thing for early startups.
So far what I’ve said may seem abstract, so let me give some ‘real’ advice. Set yourself at least 1 year and try to gain some prior experience if you really dream of having your own startup. Naturally, there are many ‘gaps’ in the understanding, experience, and resources between students and established business people, but without starting, without trying, there is no success. After experiencing the Korean ecosystem of startups, you may find that you can see the world much more clearly. Just as you didn’t know what university life was before becoming a university student, this is the same thing.
IT: Right now, INHARO is undergoing huge updates. What does the future hold for INHARO?
INHARO : Before giving an answer, we have to apologies for being late in our updates. Please wait for a while and we will be back with a much improved system.
We are now focusing on solving issues with weak KT signals, and introducing a Kakao log-in for our reliable reviewing system which has real-time reports and report points. In addition, we have been updating the user interface, introducing Google Maps, and integrating various views.
Actually, earlier this year, we merged with another company, so we have recently focused on developing our new team. The updates to INHARO will be available soon though.
We hope to provide a convenient and delightful service to reward the love of our INHARO users!
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