Engaging with "I have an idea" pitch

Some Background

I am a software engineer, working from home, in a neighborhood where the idea is still catching up. Often folks would ask me about what exactly I do and at times conversation would segue into them running their product idea through me. The questions would be: can it be done(Yes), what would it take(app, servers? aka nuts and bolts), how much would it cost and in the end an assertion, "It can work, right?". There is this particular fella with whom I used to play gully cricket and stuff when we were younger. His elder brother is also software engineer working in a bank. He has done, running app idea, with me couple of times already. Sharing one such conversation:

Phone call

him> Yaar/Dude, how much would it cost to make an Android App?

me> Umm…. <confused>. It depends on what App you want to make bhai.

him> Let us say, I want to make a app around delivering grocery items. This lockdown is really hard. There is no business. No timeline on when will it resume. I have been thinking lately to do something in meanwhile. You know to keep the cash flowing. Something.

me> I can understand bhai. But this domain is tough. There is a lot of competition. Many people are doing this. Narrow margins and often there are none.

him> We will start with this colony. Just make them buy from us, give them discount. You just tell me, how much will it cost? Can I get good folks to develop for me?

me> It will cost yaar. It won't be cheap.

him> I want something simple. A friend of mine recently released similar grocery App. It was bad, really bad. There was no way to search items. He hired someone and he charged him almost 2Lakh INR, took four months and made this unusable, crappy App. I can do something better.

me> That is cheap re.

him> Cheap? 2 Lakh? That is not cheap. In these tough times, he won't be able to get his investment back from this App.

me> Well, that's the problem right? In such a business, with money constraints, you invest to save money, you can't invest expecting it(App) to make money.

him> What?

me> In your case, Software or "App" is either expanding your customer base or automating something. It would be reducing manual work and saving you time in some way. Let us assume you have an existing business, you have your customers, inventory and folks that work in the shop. Now in lockdown you want to start home delivery. Okay, it makes sense. People can call or text their items to your Watsapp number and you have them delivered.

him> Yes. But then, what does the app do?

me> Getting there. You have some person manning your Watsapp and your phone. Noting down orders making sure they are getting delivered. You existing supply chain. Now as you grow, it will be hard to manage all this, taking calls, reading texts, coordinating and delivery. In that particular scenario you want to optimize your distribution and ordering and inventory system. There investing in the App makes sense. You have fixed inventory, people scroll, place an order and on your side of App, you have way to make sure that all orders are fulfilled.

me> Again, without such operation, you can't invest in App expecting it will start making you money. Does that make sense? Also, trust me, hiring a good developer to deliver you an working App would cost good money. Start small, start taking orders, phone, text. Reconsider App when you have things working and have some surplus to improve the process.

He was advised similarly from other folks(including his elder brother) too. After a few days, he called again saying he has started taking the orders and if I need anything, I should give him a call or text him.