Make in India: The mobile app opportunity

Mobile apps and the app economy know no boundaries. So a brand might create an app for an Indian audience but if the idea is great it has the potential to be talked about across the globe

The ‘Make in India’ call by the Indian government is aimed at attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), primarily in the manufacturing industries. The goal is lofty and if implemented well, backed by policy reforms, it is likely to have a positive impact on the economy.

In this context, there is one other ‘Make in India’ angle, which has a potential to both positively impact Indians and build our reputation in the world stage. And that is the opportunity presented by the app economy. That mobile has become an integral part of our lives is stating the obvious. A majority of Indian consumers gaining access to the internet for the first time is ‘mobile only’. In 2012 the global app economy was worth $53 billion and is expected to expand at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28% up to 2016, reaching $143 billion. By 2018, 500 million Indians are likely to be on the internet and a large portion of them will be mobile-only. This calls for the entire ecosystem—brands, content creators, experience designers, technology providers and more—to completely re-think the way content is created and consumed. A very important role is going to be played by mobile apps. I am a strong believer in the potential of mobile apps industry to make a positive impact on the world stage.

Geography is history

As a mobile app development company based in the small town of Udupi, we know that mobile apps and the app economy know no boundaries. The old line ‘geography is history’, used in an ad for Iridium satellite phones, is apt for mobile apps. Angry Birds, the immensely popular mobile game, was created in Espoo, Finland (population approximately 270,000). Dong Nguyen created Flappy Bird, which drove many users wild across the globe, out of Vietnam.

It is not just games, but several productivity and utility apps popular across the world that come from the most unlikeliest of places—from Reykjavík to Chennai. So mobile apps are ripe for the ‘Make in India-Made for the World’ outlook.

Today, the world is not just flat but digital too. So a stunt performed in a town near Brussels for a US television network (‘Push for drama’ for TNT) or activation for a mall in South Korea can go viral throughout the world. It has the potential to imbue brands with a halo across the world, even if the brand’s target audience is local.

So a brand might create an app for an Indian audience but if the idea is great it has the potential to be talked about across the globe. In that context, if Indian brands can think of great mobile apps for their customers (across utilities, games and entertainment apps) their path to global recognition is that much easier.

India’s many problems, millions of mobile solutions

Successful mobile apps, like any business, address a real consumer need. Nobel Peace Prize joint winner Kailash Satyarthi recently said, ‘India has hundreds of problems, but millions of solutions’. A lot of these problems can be addressed through a mobile solution delivered through an app. The government’s ‘Swachch Bharat Mission’ and the effort to evoke participation from the general public is likely to get a boost through the ‘Clean India’ mobile app developed by us. The app will make the before-after images easy to take and upload and also facilitate tagging of nine friends to trigger the viral effect.

Language content on the internet, is another real problem waiting to be addressed. As more and more Indians get online, the problem is likely to aggravate. Estonia, with just a million people, has more Estonian content on the internet than there is Hindi content from India. Mobile companies have begun addressing this with support for Indian languages in handsets. But there needs to be a lot more done in mobile apps and content. Children’s books are another category in mobile apps which thrives on quality content. It calls for collaboration between storytellers, illustrators, graphic artists and tech experts to come together and create engaging content. Unfortunately quality content is not yet available in large numbers, which is specifically tailor-made to India, across languages. Each region in India has rich, local content be it in history, culture or entertainment. A lot of these can be re-created to suit the mobile apps platform. The enterprise segment is also an opportunity waiting to be addressed by mobile apps. Accessing banking services through mobile apps is still restricted to a small percentage of users.

Challenges ahead

If India is to become a major hub globally in mobile apps especially with the ‘Made in India – Made for the World’ angle, there are a lot of challenges to overcome. First among them is the need to create a talent pool of designers who think mobile. If you look at the top mobile apps either in terms of quantity (number of downloads) or quality (major awards won or recognised by the App Store or Play Store), India’s share is quite low. There are exceptions like Camera Plus (voted Best for iOS 8) and Game Your Video (voted Best of Show at Macworld, 2012) but mobile apps designed and developed in India rarely feature in such global lists. We need to up our game in mobile design overall and a concerted effort must be made to improve quality.

Brands and marketers must also be educated to value design. As parity becomes a reality across categories, the experience a brand provides through design will increasingly become the differentiator. And an important manifestation of that design will be through the mobile experience, especially an app.

‘Made in India, made for the world’ mobile apps is an opportunity waiting to be tapped by start-ups, brands, content creators and technology companies. What an app-ortunity!

By Rohith Bhat
The author is the CEO of Robosoft Technologies


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