Interview: The Alternative Vibe From Ouzer

In our recent take of the top five mobile apps when traveling in Cambodia, we highlighted one of the newest homegrown faces around the block: Ouzer. Ouzer is a minimalistic phonebook app that aims to be the “ultimate companion out there”, giving users all the necessary information with a simple single-touch experience that can be accessed even when offline. Meet Sorya Pum, the 27-year-old mastermind behind the application, as he shared with us more about the alternative, trendy, and stylish views of his quest into the app sector.

(This interview has been edited for flow and clarity.)

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Hello Sorya! Could we start with a short background of yourself, and how you ultimately became involved with mobile applications?

Sure! I’ve been in Cambodia for two years now, although my father is a Cambodian, and I have a business background in a myriad of third world countries (eg. India, Mexico, and Thailand on behalf of the French Embassy). I originally settled here with the objective of being an entrepreneur, and Ouzer is one of the ventures that derived from a simple hobby of travelling. When I visited countries, I don’t usually have the opportunity to feel like a local. We always end up following trips, and going to the usual tourist spots, but I wanted to experience countries as a whole. I wanted to experience the local vibes.

After awhile, my friend and I thought that it would be a cool idea to bring this desire to a mobile app, and we started making all the plans. I drew up all the primary designs and concepts in a Keynote presentation, and got the guys over at ABi Technologies to chip in for all the codes. All the data in the app are from public databases, and I entered everything by myself to filter the information accordingly. My goal with the data was not to harm any companies or groups in the process, but just to achieve simple public listing for all the users.

How many users are on Ouzer right now? Did you get any prominent feedback from the experience?

We have about 800 users since the launch, and it was partially because of the minimal promotion conducted on my part. All I did was put a couple of tens in Facebook and broadcasted the word to a close circle. However, the users are showing a good reception. The design of Ouzer serves their purpose: the simplicity ensures that the app can be downloaded in a fast way, and the practicality of it really shows when the users are able to register information even when offline.

What were some of the challenges you faced throughout the process?

I went on to do training for about three months, and that included me explaining to companies how they could leverage the app platform and data for their businesses. It does take a lot of time getting to both the company’s owner and budget department, and they are usually the decision-makers. Another incident involved me really accessing how fair and respectful it would be to the users if the companies abused the data, and in the end, I had to draw up a plan to separate details from figures.

What is in store for the future of Ouzer? 

I will be upgrading the graphic aspects with a company in Paris, and this will include more modifications to the icons used mostly in the app. I will also include spaces for ads because funding and revenue is another part I will be looking into. As of date, Ouzer is completely self-funded. Going forward, I think that the biggest thing is the information available in the app currently. I will need to collect more information, and really get access to the insider information that the app currently lacks.

Promising plans! Do you have any last comments on the current scene before we wrap this up?

I came to Cambodia fresh from Bangkok, so this entire experience has been really new for me. The dynamics in Thailand is almost fierce compared to here, and where they like to follow international trends, I see Cambodia building everything from scratch with a communal effort. It is all a matter of taste, and the two countries definitely do not have the same spirit. You could say that I was already “formatted” in Bangkok, so I see huge breaks for organic development in the current scene. That being said, there are some really talented people here to help with mobile app ventures! If you are working towards an app, you can definitely get very good opportunities here to advance startups and companies.

Thanks!

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Ouzer is only available on the App Store so far, with options spanning around a small portion of Asia (eg. Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand), so keep checking this space for future updates!