The next big story in the telecom sector could be the number of jobs that the mobile software applications (apps) have in store. Thanks to rising smartphone penetration, lower data tariffs and, above all, the proliferation of apps, Indian telecom operators have already seen the share of data earnings rise from 10% of revenues in FY14 to 17% in FY15. As handset prices have gone through the floor, smartphone penetration has exceeded 10% of the total subscriber base and is estimated to quickly touch 90%, like in the developed world. But, despite the still low penetration of smartphones, India accounts for 100 million app downloads a month, placing it among the top five regions for the Android app store, Google Play. Besides generating revenues for the telecom players, an IAMAI-Icrier study, An inquiry into the impact of India’s App Economy, points out that around 75,000 full-time jobs have already been created in India by apps as compared to 752,000 jobs, in the US, in 2013, and 1 million jobs in 28 EU countries in 2014. With the size of India’s app economy estimated at R1,964 crore in 2016, app-related jobs in the country—this includes direct, indirect and induced jobs—could exceed 6 lakh between 2014 and 2016 if the government intervenes suitably in a mature market.
This is the least that is expected to promote Digital India plan as apps will be playing a big role in its success. The inflexion in the app business happened with the arrival of free wi-fi services. That allowed users to bypass the telecom network. Then, Apple permitted developers to design apps for the App Store while offering 70% of the total revenue to developers, changing the arena for operators. It is the data services that will be the big driver for telecom operators’ revenue, with voice revenues plateauing. This will be driven by the greater use of apps and, on the lines of information technology, this is another area where India can make its presence felt by riding on the large base of app developers. After all, almost 10% of the apps developed worldwide are by Indians, be it at home or abroad. It is time for the Indian app developer to be counted among the best globally.