How Apple’s annual event ‘changed’ the lives of these three young Indian developers – Times of India


Vidit Bhargava was in class III and like any younger sibling he wanted to what his elder brother did. His brother attended an HTML class back then and that aroused Bhargava’s curiosity about computers and technology. That was many years ago but the spark was lit and since then Bhargava has realised that technologies are not only fun to play with but can also be used to create tools that help people. Something he did with his app called LookUp for iOS. Crucial to his development was Apple’s role with its Swift Student Challenge that is conducted every year around WWDC — the annual developer conference.
LookUp is an English dictionary — a reference and learning app that enables users to learn new words through beautiful illustrations. “The idea is to bring fun and interactive ways of learning words to a traditional dictionary,” says Bhargava. The app has Word of the Day illustrations, interactive quizzes and translated meanings making it useful reference app for students and non-native English learners.
Apple has a Swift Swift Student Challenge every year where students can showcase their passion for coding. Winners like Bhargava and others get one year of membership in the Apple Developer Program.

What’s the eligibility criteria for Apple Student Swift Challenge
To be eligible for the Challenge, you must:
Be 13 years of age or older, or the equivalent minimum age in the relevant jurisdiction
Be registered for free with Apple as an Apple developer or be a member of the Apple Developer Program; and Fulfill one of the following requirements:
Be enrolled in an accredited academic institution or official homeschool equivalent
Be enrolled in a STEM organization’s educational curriculum;
Be enrolled in an Apple Developer Academy
Have graduated from high school or equivalent within the past 6 months and be awaiting acceptance or have received acceptance to an accredited academic institution.

New Delhi-based Bhargava was 21 in 2016 when he got the WWDC scholarship from April. He had seen a picture of Apple CEO Tim Cook interacting with young students and made him curious how they ended up meeting one of the most important men in not just tech industry but the world. The scholarship, says Bhargava, came at the right time for him. “I had completed my second year in college, and I was going to start looking for summer internships, or prepare for further studies. I hadn’t really considered making apps as a career opportunity,” he reminisces. The WWDC scholarship gave him confidence to work on his own apps. He finished graduation and set up and indie-app development studio.

It’s been five years since that WWDC scholarship and in between Bhargava rejected several engineering jobs to take up app development. An app-preneuer, he runs a company called Squircle Apps and is creating some developer tools, productivity and lifestyle apps.


From coding at the age of nine to AR apps

Like Bhargava, Akhil Tolani has a rather interesting story about development of apps. He started coding at the age of 9 and ended up selling his first company for $100,000 at the young age of 15. The other thing Bhargava and Tolani have in common is the WWDC scholarship. Tolani, co-founder and CTO, mirrAR, won the scholarship in 2019.

mirrAR, Tolani’s app, is a real time virtual try-on application for the jewellery industry, bringing a wide range of jewellery options to you from across the country for the end consumers. Businesses can track the jewellery that is liked, opened and tried on by customers and coordinate with them through a chat. Customers are able to access the inventory on their phones so that it becomes convenient for them to try-on jewellery at any time sitting in the comfort of their own homes.

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Tolani has 10 years of experience now and has filed three patents and published two research papers on Computer Vision & Augmented Reality.
He is appreciative of design led culture at Apple. “It has built products that cater to a user experience that is unmatched today: extremely seamless yet efficient, convenient and simple. Without Apple, I can confidently say that mirrAR would not have reached even close to the level of success it has today,” adds Tolani.


The conventional path to development

Another WWDC scholar from 2016 is Pawanpreet Singh, who created Pomodoro Focus Timer app. The app is based on the Pomodoro Technique incorporating a To-Do List with minimal and clean UI to avoid any kind of distractions.
Singh, unlike Bhargava and Tolani, didn’t go down the app-preneur way. The WWDC scholarship gave him what he calls “a substantial start” to his career. He joined LimeTray as an iOS developer helping restaurants go online followed by Zomato which aims to improve restaurant discovery and dining experience. Singh moved on to join Zolo — India’s largest co-living platform — where he led the iOS development team. He is currently working in the core team at Ultrahuman, which provides a platform for holistic transformation that is balanced around mind, body and recovery.

Not that he has stopped developing apps. He is working WaterMyPlant, an app which helps your greens live longer and stay healthier by being watered on time.
“Whenever I feel a particular kind of an app should be included in my lifestyle, I try searching around it on App Store but sometimes just end up crafting my own version of it,” says Singh. The same thing happened with Pomodoro. When Work From Home became the new normal, Singh’s productivity was hurt. He came across Pomodoro technique (a time management method to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks) and looked for an app that could help. He didn’t find any and ended up creating Focus Timer.
Pomodoro Focus Timer has been downloaded 25k times and has been ranked in Top 100 many times in various countries, claims Singh. “Users are loving the Apple Watch integration and I get at least 4-5 feature request every week which is quite thrilling and motivating,” he says.
The ease of development for Apple Ecosystem makes it easy for him since he wanted his app to be available on every Apple platform. With Mac Catalyst coming in, it was easy for him to port his app and make it available for M1 chip Macs.
This year too Apple has selected students from India for the WWDC Swift Student challenge. Will there be more ‘app-preneuers’ on the horizon? The odds seem to be in favour of that.





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Sagar Biswas

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