It’s a common lament today that there is never enough storage space on a smartphone to keep the huge number of apps one would like to download and keep. Progressive Web Apps (PWA), therefore, come as a solution as they offer an experience that combines the best of the web and the best of apps, making users’ lives simpler and easier. PWA is a web development technology that uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience to users. “They are very relevant for a mobile-first market like India. We are building the concept of progressive web apps and were one of the first browser companies to work on this in India,” Sunil Kamath, vice-president, South Asia & Southeast Asia, Opera Software, tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts:
What is the future of progressive web apps in India?
Personally, I love progressive web apps (PWAs). They are very relevant for a mobile-first market like India. We are building the concept of progressive web apps and were one of the first browser companies to work on this concept in India. It is great to see it becoming a successful marriage between two technologies: the apps technology and web technology. What this gives you is a shortcut on the homescreen and you can access a service without installing an app. For the consumer, it’s an app-like experience on the phone, as it opens like a web page and provides all the quality features of apps.
In my view, PWAs will become mainstream in next 12-24 months. What’s more, it does not take any significant memory space. The amount of memory on the device is always a challenge, and the amount of data you have to spend to get those apps is another challenge. The uninstall rate for data-heavy apps is as high as 70-80% within three months. We hope to alleviate this problem for users with PWAs.
People are creating and consuming data with increasing ferocity. Social media is on the rise. Against this backdrop, where do you see these technologies headed?
Right now, there are a lot of buzzwords in the market, such as artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, the Opera Mini browser is now offering AI-driven newsfeed within the Opera Mini browser. By leveraging AI technology, users can get more personalised, relevant content on their devices without extra efforts to set it up. In addition to AI, we see a lot of macro trends around wearables and driverless cars in the developed markets. Opera Mini has been available on smartwatch since 2014.
How important is India for the company?
Opera is headquartered in Oslo, Norway. Our engineering, product development, and executive management teams are mostly from European countries such as Sweden, Poland, or Norway. We also have a new team from China which is working on the AI-powered newsfeed. A lot of synergy and features are incorporated in products. From our location, we have a clear strategy for developing in mobile-first markets like India. India has been a core market for Opera. We believe that if things are done correctly, we can penetrate and grow greatly in this area.
Is India an important market from an R&D point of view?
We haven’t invested in R&D in India, which is a bit different from other companies. We have a strong R&D presence in European countries and China, so we continue to rely on that. However, we are always developing new features and tend to launch them first in India, as it is a leader for mobile-first countries.
What are the new innovations you are bringing to the Indian market?
The high cost of data still creates dissatisfaction amongst consumers, deterring them from investing in smartphones. As local providers aim to cheapen data packages, we are working on compression technology to make sure that Opera has the best compression technology in the market. We focus on reducing the amount of data traffic sent over the network, which means much lower data cost for the users.
This is the core of our product. Apart from this, we have a completely localised strategy around our cricket content curation, focusing on how we localise our browser for Indians and how we can get more relevant content for them. In addition, there are multiple Indian languages for users to choose from. We think this will rule a consumer’s mind when she uses a browser to access the internet for the first time.
How important is localisation for you?
It’s a top priority right now. A lot of companies that are global, like Opera, always localise their products for markets such as India, China, and countries in Southeast Asia. The consumption pattern of the internet is varied, and there is a lot of demographic information that needs to be absorbed in the product. We have a larger content strategy for India.
We first came up with the strategy of integrating news into our product in 2013. Today, if you open Opera Mini on smartphones you will see a lot of content facilitated by artificial intelligence algorithms based on your browsing and searching patterns. Then it will start populating your feed, based on your preferences. Recently, we introduced Opera Cricket. Our product offers users real-time updates on crickets matches across the world. We have additional content initiatives for the remainder of the year, which will further cement our positioning in the market.
What are you doing to capitalise on the fast-growing Indian smartphone market?
We zeroed in on the smartphone trends very early. In 2005 we introduced Opera Mini, and it became the most popular browser on feature phones. Five years later, with the smartphone market booming, we created Opera for Android, a full web browser for a leader in this market. Both Opera Mini and Opera for Android have worked for almost everyone in the market and Android is by far the largest smartphone user platform in mobile-first countries. A lot of focus today is on Android OS, so whatever we build will be for the Android platform.
How are you pegged against your key competition in India?
We have a lineup of products and are assessing what will be relevant for the mobile browser market. Our advantage is we have a very strong OEM partnership, which other browsers don’t have. As we continue to innovate our products, our primary focus now is to get first-time internet users to the Opera browser, and engage our existing users with relevant, local content.