Not only is Indus OS leveraging the cloud for its own intents and purposes, and by extension to serve its users, it is now also using it to boost developer momentum adding another feather to its cap.
All Samsung Galaxy phones ship with the Galaxy Store in India. That in fact, is Indus App Bazaar. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
Indus OS has come a long way. From being an indigenous operating system-maker taking on behemoths Google and Apple to building India’s answer to Play Store and App Store respectively, Indus OS is one of those rare home-grown brands that has seen it all, even done it all in the mobile space in a very, very short span of time. Indus OS started its journey in 2013, launched its operating system with Micromax in 2015, and in 2018 it pivoted to being an app store, aka Indus App Bazaar.
But despite those changes, one thing has remained constant. Focus. Indus OS has spent the greater part of its journey trying to make for India technology that would in turn enable the next billion users to come online. In its current offering Indus App Bazaar, for instance, Indus OS provides users access to over 400,000 apps in 12 Indian languages. Indus App Bazaar powers over 60 million devices, according to Indus OS. The brand’s biggest partner is Samsung. All Samsung Galaxy phones ship with the Galaxy Store in India. That in fact, is Indus App Bazaar.
Financial Express Online went behind the scenes with Rakesh Deshmukh, co-founder and CEO, Indus OS to understand how it does what it does. A key name that came up back and forth in our conversation was Amazon Web Services (AWS). Not only is Indus OS leveraging the cloud for its own intents and purposes, and by extension to serve its users, it is now also using it to boost developer momentum adding another feather to its cap. Excerpts.
Tell us about your journey, your focus points, and association with Samsung.
Rakesh: We started our journey in 2013. The idea was to create a platform where the next half a billion users could consume content apps in their local language. Along the journey, we signed up with Samsung, as the default App Store on all Samsung devices in India. We were the first company where Samsung opened the firmware and took the app from a third party to build it for them. Today, Samsung Venture Investment Corporation (SVIC) is one of our investors.
We power more than 100 million devices. Any Samsung user can open Indus App Bazaar and download their choice of application. We support over 400,000 apps in 12 Indian languages. Our product is made by Indians and for Indians and offered in multiple Indian languages. It is an incredibly unique value proposition.
What sort of challenges do young Indian start-ups looking to make headway into developing apps, scaling those apps, and making money off them face?
Rakesh: The first thing an entrepreneur starting an app needs are some tools and a few developers to start coding, which is easily doable and does not require a lot of cost. The second part is the localisation. With so many languages in India, getting the right talent to convert this into multiple languages is a big challenge. We as a company offer localisation free of cost. Any developer who wants to convert their existing application or a new application into multiple Indian languages, they can do it without incurring any cost.
There is also the network side to look at, you know, the storage of data. We are going through petabytes of data and it must work without any compromise on performance. The last bit is distribution and discovery. Most of the apps we see (readily) on stores, either they are from global developers or those with hundreds of millions of downloads. New developers from India often find it difficult to therefore highlight their apps. Indus App Bazaar is different in that sense. The way we show content is more local, more focused on location down to the city you are in. If you are Hindi-speaking, we can show more Hindi content to you. And that is how we empower small developers in distributing their product.
You have a long association with AWS and now you have added another dimension to it by empowering India’s developer community. Can you tell us about this new initiative?
Rakesh: In order to drive the kind of growth that we have seen in such a short time, it was extremely critical that our partner on the backend was also strong. That is why we decided to partner with AWS. If I were to talk about certain data points, our daily traffic has grown 20x in just one year and despite that the cost has reduced by two and a half times. That is good news for cost-conscious start-ups like us.
AWS is start-up friendly and their team is proactive. We have been constantly supported from day one. They have something called the Cost Score, which helps us to understand how much more we can save by customizing, which is unique to them. Also, the kind of infrastructure that they have built is world-class especially from a security point of view.
Seeing all those benefits, we thought why not pass the same to all our developers. We have now come up with a program where any developer who is publishing their app on our app store can receive AWS Promotional Credits for them to use and be familiar with the services of AWS. This would help developers, especially small start-ups, to simply plug in and start scaling their product instead of starting everything from scratch. It would reduce their overall time of going live in the market. Areas like server maintenance are also taken care of.
What does this collaboration entail for developers and customers?
Rakesh: To build a developer ecosystem which is strong, you need more players and they should be self-sustainable. So, from that perspective, if we are giving them AWS Promotional Credits to start their company, more and more start-ups can come online with a great cost offering. The biggest problem we see in India is that all these small companies, in tier two and tier three towns, their downloads are in the range of 10,000- 50,000. If they cannot scale to a million downloads, they will not be able to make an impact. We provide a distribution platform for these developers, where they can see the ROI, make money and make impact.
From a user perspective, if there are better chances of getting our local apps on-board, then they would prefer to use these local applications today.
Do you have a policy in check where apps are also tested via your own team before they make their way to the marketplace?
Rakesh: From an app store perspective, we have the highest standards with respect to app reviews. Whenever any app is getting published, it takes about six hours for the developer to see the app on the store. Meanwhile, on the backend, there are three steps that we do:
A Malware virus check to understand whether the app has any virus content or not.
The second check is keyword and images used in the app. This is to check for any kind of adult content or content which is anti-national.
The third check is around the permissions an app is requesting from the user, whether it is required or not. In case there is an issue, we unpublish the app and contact the developer asking the reason for the permission request.
Can you talk a little bit about your privacy and security standards?
Rakesh: We store all data locally in India. When it comes to identity management, authentication, access control, providing all the company’s assets into a secure environment, all that is being taken care of as a default service from AWS.
How do you see the government’s ban on Chinese apps?
Rakesh: Before the Chinese apps got banned, you know, we were working very closely, and you must have seen the data that out of hundreds of top applications, 45 apps were from China. Now, that kind of a data point, you can see, you know, they there was a strong traction for these applications. We have worked with Indian developers, we have worked with other developers, including some from China. From our perspective, you know, if the Chinese apps got banned, we were the first App Store which disabled all the apps within an hour’s time. But all said and done, we offer a level playing field, rather than giving any specific developer any special treatment.