One App to view them all
One App to find them
One App to bring them all and on your phone bind them
This Lord of the Rings reference will greet you as you go to digital comics app HuHuba’s home page. The words are twisted to make them relevant for comic book readers. How apt, because this app does pretty much what the One Ring does, well, in relation to the comics though. It brings together numerous titles from various graphic novel publications to view on this one platform.
Rohit Prakash, an IITian and a comic lover, developed the HuHuba app along with his friend.
The duo studied together in IIT Delhi where they first discovered their mutual interest and love for comics. They decided to come up with something related to their passion and that is when the idea of starting an app occurred. Prakash’s friend then went on to IIM Ahmedabad and to Microsoft from there, but they have since stayed in touch and worked on fine tuning their idea. Thus was born HuHuba in 2013, an Android and iOS app that connects comic book readers to publishers.
After a year and a half, the friend had to quit due to certain reasons and Prakash took upon himself to further develop the app.
“Through HuHuba, we have translated our love for comic books into a platform to inculcate the comic book reading culture in India,” says he.
The app combines great content with a mobile-centric reading experience, letting people consume comics, “a medium especially dear to me from a time of ill health as a child,” he explains.
Now, the HuHuba team consists of four core members. Interns are brought on board whenever the need arises.
The app’s library includes publishers like TBS Planet (Footsteps, Shivaay, Ved), Yali Dream Creations (The Caravan, Rakshak), Tinkle (Suppandi, Shikari Shambu), Chariot Comics (The Templar, Vrica, Zombie Rising Volume 1), Orange Radius (Garuda, Parshu: Origins) and many more.
Contacting big Indian publishing houses for getting their titles on a digital platform has been a challenge for Prakash.
“Apart from Amar Chitra Katha, every other big Indian publisher whom we approached came across as highly unprofessional,” he recalls. Everyone was aware of the benefits of going digital, but few were inclined to try this approach. They were forced to re-evaluate and revise their strategy by moving towards software as a service (SaaS) model for comic book publishers.
“We also realised that reaching out to publishers abroad was much easier. They were prompt to respond and we could close deals much faster.” Hence, the team heavily focuses on targeting small and Indie comic book publishers worldwide. In addition, HuHuba also helps them to get a presence on mobile devices by creating their individual mobile apps. “This way they can expand their reach across geographies. In short, HuHuba is a sincere attempt to breathe life back into comics,” adds Prakash.
The HuHuba app was developed in-house using the expertise of the team consisting of computer science engineers from IIT and Cornell. They pooled in their personal finances to get the company registered as LLP (limited liability partnership).
HuHuba’s revenue model is two-fold. A 30 per cent cut is charged on the marked price of every comic that is sold on the app. The team also provides white label solutions to these publishers charging a flat fee of $300. “Given the small size of the Indian comic book industry and its declining sales and readership, revenues from the store front app have been fairly low,” reveals Prakash. “We are simultaneously reaching out to publishers abroad offering them software as a service (white label solution) by building their individual comic book app.”
According to Prakash, the response for HuHuba as an app was quite lukewarm. But as a platform “where we provide white label solutions to publishers to get their own app on the store,” it is quickly picking up. As a result, the sales figures of all the publishers who have signed up for the SaaS model have increased up to five-fold from what they were previously.
So how is the HuHuba team keeping users hooked onto the app?
“If you look at the app reviews, people are awestruck by the reading experience provided by HuHuba,” replies Prakash. “The smooth panel flow view is our USP.” Indeed, as one can read the comics in full screen with orientation designed according to the artwork.
“As for the content,” he continues, “we are in the process of adding new and exciting titles (including a political satire on Donald Trump) very soon.”
What makes Prakash and his team so passionate towards building the app is their own love for graphic novels. And that is the best motivation for any developer to provide the best for users.
“Back in school days, I used to enjoy Indrajal’s comic – Phantom,” shares he. “Phantom had everything that I desired – suspense, animals, and a superhero. What is special about Phantom is that he does not have any superpower and relies on his strength, intelligence to defeat his foes.”
Prakash feels that the audience for traditional comics that catered to simple plots has dwindled now. “The children nowadays are keener on watching cartoons or playing games on smart devices,” he mentions. “Fortunately, new publishers like Yali, TBS Planet and Graphic India are trying to cater to a more mature audience with original and complex plotlines.”
He also affirms that events like Comic Con increase awareness by providing a medium to connect with the audiences. “I believe that a success story where a comic book is converted to a movie format (like Marvel/DC) would propel comic books back to the mainstream,” he strongly opines.
Rohit Prakash is one of the few people that are helping the comics propel with the aid of technology. Comics is known for its art, story and paperback. Guess the air just got thicker with digital data.