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330k Downloads For Kerika Task Management App: How They Did It

330k Downloads For Kerika Task Management App: How They Did It

Bethenny Carl
Website Planet had the chance to sit down and chat with Arun Kumar, CEO of Kerika. We discussed how the company started, what made Kerika reach 330.000 downloads only from the Google Workspace Marketplace, and what opportunities and challenges they see in the future of their industry.

Let’s introduce Kerika to our audience. What is it and how does it work?

Kerika is a task management app that’s designed specially for remote teams. It helps teams that are distributed across multiple locations, like multiple offices or work-from-home scenarios, organize themselves using task boards. Everything runs in the browser so there’s nothing to install or maintain, not even a plug-in.

Task Boards are a visual way to manage your work: each work item or task is listed as a “card”, and all the cards are organized in columns that represent the workflow of the team. A very simple Task Board may contain just three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done. All the work that’s still pending is listed as cards in the To Do column.

As a team member picks up work items, they drag the card over to the Doing column, so that everyone else on the team knows that it’s being worked on. When the work is done, the card is dragged over to the Done column.

This is a very simple, yet very powerful concept because it scales up so well when you are using a tool like Kerika: one of our customers used Kerika to manage the 24×7 operations of a mine in Canada. Their board had more than 26 columns! That’s an extreme scenario in terms of workflow complexity, but it just goes to show that the concept of a Task Board is almost infinitely scalable.

On the other hand, we have lots of schools and colleges around the world using Kerika for their group projects, and with kids as young as middle-schoolers you will obviously be dealing with a much simpler setup.

And the fact that our users range from global automobile companies down to young children highlights the biggest advantage of using Task Boards: it is super easy for people to pick up the concept and there’s no training needed. Anyone can look at a board that’s in progress and instantly understand where things stand with the team: how the work progresses through the various stages of the team’s workflow, how much is pending, what got done, and what needs attention.

There’s another aspect of Kerika that’s unique: we are the only task management app that has a built-in capability to use the browser as a Whiteboard: you can sketch out your ideas and plans and explore them in detail.

How did it all start, and what are your achievements to this day?

We were the first to create these incredibly flexible Whiteboards that can not only contain ideas, text, and diagrams, but also files and content from the Web. You can even expand parts of a Whiteboard to contain other Whiteboards, which is an incredible way to explore ideas from the top all the way down to the fine details. The Whiteboard capability is where Kerika started.

There was real innovation behind this and we were issued 2 patents in the US!

But we found that while the Whiteboards were great for exploring ideas and concepts, our users wanted more: they wanted to take the ideas and translate them into actions and projects. So we built Task Boards and made sure they were fully integrated with the Whiteboard capability.

Now we have users in every continent and we get 5-star reviews everywhere: on the app stores, on the Google Marketplace, third-party sites. Even more enjoyable are the emails we get, completely unsolicited, from our users saying how much they like the product. We love those!

How does your mission differ from the other companies in your niche?

Here’s the problem with the task management sector/niche: there are a ton of tools out there, and they are all built by geeks, for geeks.

You can tell right away how nerdy the user experience is, and this leaves behind the vast majority of people who are not techies by training or profession. But the techniques and processes behind Lean and Agile are really applicable for non-technical folks as well; the challenge is to create a tool that helps ordinary folks learn to use Kanban-style or Scrum or other Lean/Agile techniques by gently guiding them through the process.

That’s been our mission from the very beginning: designing a tool that ordinary folks can use, without training. We are building “task management for the rest of us.”

Within that overall mission we have made some important strategic decisions that sets us apart from our competitors. For example, we are the only task management tool that integrates completely with Google Apps and the Box platform (and later this year we are adding the Microsoft Office platform). This is a huge advantage for companies that have already decided to use Google Apps or Box: when they sign up with Kerika, they know their files are stored in their own Google or Box account instead of disappearing into some mysterious cloud controlled by Kerika. IT departments really like that aspect of Kerika: knowing that their user files never left their organization’s domain and controls.

And, of course, the fact that we are the only task management tool that also has a Whiteboard capability built in really distinguishes us from others in this niche. It means that Kerika is the only tool where you can do both your idea generation and the subsequent task execution.

Who are your typical clients and what problems do they have when they come to you?

Describing our “typical clients” is impossible for me, because we have such a wide variety of users. We have users in government agencies in Washington State; we have users in one of the largest global auto manufacturers; we have users who work in consulting and engineering companies — and then we have users who are students in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa! It’s such a variety!

For most professional users, the goal is to “get more done”, especially with nearly every team becoming partially or entirely remote. They want a better workflow — and our templates help with that — and crucially, they want more participation by folks outside the project teams that have a stake in the outcome of these teams. I am talking about internal and external stakeholders who need to know what’s going on.

To accommodate these stakeholders we have a great “Visitor” role that lets designated people see, in real-time, what’s going on within projects. (And Visitors are free!)

And what makes them eventually choose you over your competitors?

What we have heard consistently, from users across the board, is that they love the user experience. We spend literally months designing each feature using what we call a “pixel-perfect approach” where we do very detailed mockups of every aspect of a feature before we consider building it. We are also very careful about not over-engineering the app: we reject a ton of good ideas simply because they would make the user experience more cluttered, and potentially more confusing, for our mainstream users, who, as I have said before, are not techies.

Can you share one success story from your customers? What was their pain point, and what results did they get thanks to Kerika?

I am going to give you an unusual success story, because it’s actually the one that really touches me at an emotional level.

A consulting company was using Kerika to manage their proposals and bids, and the person who was coordinating all these proposals was pregnant. She used Kerika to smoothly transition from work to home for the birth, and then to return to work. The whole process was incredibly smooth for her: she didn’t have to plan for a traditional maternity leave where she would have to drop everything one day, go away for a fixed period of time, and then suddenly have to come back to work at full speed again.

Kerika made this whole thing into a very gentle transition: as her due date approached she started spending more time at home, and because she could login to Kerika from her home computer, there were no hurdles or hassles. After giving birth, she was able to gently transition back to work, initially at home and then going in a few days a week.

Watching all this moved the CEO of the company to tears! The CEO was an older woman, and in the video she reflects on how nothing like Kerika was available when she was giving birth many years ago, and she was so happy that her employee had this experience, thanks to Kerika, that was simply inconceivable in her time as a new mother.

What do you see in the future of your industry, and how do you plan to cope?

There’s a lot of vendors, and we expect consolidation: some folks will go out of business because they don’t have a really good differentiated product, or because they don’t have passionate customers who will stick with them. There may be some M&A but not a lot.

What’s been happening a lot in the past few years is other tech companies are slapping on a Kanban Board feature to their products because they see demand for this kind of task management increasing, but it’s obvious that the task management part has been, literally, just glued on to something that was never about task management. It’s like they are just trying to tick a box and say “yup, we got that, too”.

Our focus isn’t going to change. We believe very passionately that everyone else in this space is still neglecting what we call “regular folks”. We love regular folks, and we will continue to make sure we have the best user experience for them!

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