With the need for digital apps on the rise, software providers are racing to offer platforms that let a layperson build apps with minimal or no coding
By Srinath Srinivasan
AS enterprises of every size morph into digital businesses, the need to create digital apps coupled with the hunt for the right talent who can develop them is increasing every day. As a business function, it becomes difficult for firms to form and maintain full-fledged technical teams, thereby creating a demand for product companies to create platforms which will enable businesses to create and maintain their own apps with limited technical knowledge.
As per the recent ‘Gartner Platforms for Software Engineering and Delivery’ survey, low code application platforms are already among the top three platform types used in 2021. The same Gartner survey highlights that citizen development platforms are among platforms that have highest adoption plans in the market. “According to our estimates, globally this is an approximately $5.7 billion market, expected to grow at a 26.4% CAGR for the next three years. By 2025, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity,” says Akash Jain, associate principal analyst, Gartner. “We are seeing a lot of large vendors shifting their focus and investments to the Indian market due to a robust demand as well due to the presence of a large number of independent software vendors and service providers in India.” India, the third largest software ecosystem in the world, is home to a unicorn and several startups that are offering no code/low code software, while also housing large foreign players.
“The low code platform encompasses no code as well. It attracts a lot of business users who previously did not write code. We call such users citizen developers. Some of the toughest and most complex warehousing, inventory management and student records management systems have been written on our platform by such users with little support from our side,” says Hyther Nizam, vice-president—Product Management, Zoho Corp, who oversees the Zoho Creator low code platform entirely built from India. So far, six million apps have been created on the platform with over 13,000 paying customers. The customers pay per user every month and there’s virtually no limit on the number of apps created.
An American player who is bullish about the Indian low/no code market is Oracle. “Oracle APEX is the most widely used low-code platform for enterprise apps in the world,” says Saravanan P, head, Technology Cloud Engineering, Oracle India. “Oracle APEX has around 500,000 developers, advocates, and partners worldwide, and millions of end-users use its live applications daily.” According to Saravanan, one of India’s largest retailers for jewellery and watches uses the platform for store management processes and to enhance the in-store experience for customers. The large players are building a marketplace around the platform which has also opened up new income channels for the users who list their codes and applications on it.
“Some users list them for free and some users do it for a price. We do not take any kind of commission for this ,” says Nizam. Via training and certification, the large players have also expanded their partner ecosystem. According to Nizam, this is very similar to what the Indian accounting software giant Tally does. “It not only expands our reach but also offers great support, customisations for power users hyper-locally while increasing income for the partners,” he informs.
The smaller players in the market have a completely no code approach to begin with. “Once you have access to our App Studio, you can start building your own apps which is just a drag and drop utility,” says Vinay Aggarwal, founder, Hubbler. “We are building our partnership ecosystem which is very critical for any SaaS B2B company. This will add valuable stakeholders into our ecosystem, such as relevant resellers, subject matter experts, app building buddies who will turn into certified Hubbler developers.”
While the scaled and established platforms race to add new features using strong R&D teams, startups in this space face two big challenges. “First, there are a large number of vendors who operate in this space. Second, large vendors have created a huge barrier to entry by providing attractive entry level licensing options,” says Jain.