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India: state of the mobile app business

Cellstrat hosted Mobile App Conclave 2011 in Bangalore today.  The agenda was not published ahead of time so those of us that showed up were pleasantly surprised to see a quality lineup.  Excellent keynotes by Pratapa Bernard of Vodafone, Sridhar Ranganathan of InMobi and Sunny Rao of Nuance were punctuated by interesting panel discussions which brought together the leading lights of the Indian mobilility scene.  Some of my takeaways follow.

Platform wars

  • Nokia+Symbian: India still has a large installed base of smart/feature phones consuming data.  Although the death-knell for Symbian may have been sounded, for the foreseeable future, mobile apps in India cannot ignore it.
  • Apple: Although iPhones and iPads get a lot more ink and attention, the reality is that a negligible fraction of the userbase is on iOS.
  • Blackberry, Java, Android: all these platforms are significant but Android is growing fastest

Browsers vs. Apps:

  • Where Apps win:  Usability is the *sole* driver of adoption, not technology enhancements (e.g. screen size, USB ports, 3G network, etc.).   Apps are better suited to deliver optimal experiences.  Browser experiences continue to suffer from lack of usability just like the failed promise of WAP’s first run 10+ years ago.  Apps can support next generation user-interfaces including local language speech, pre-integration between multiple apps (e.g. linking Yelp reviews to Google Maps and FourSquare).
  • Where Apps lose: Lack of stickiness plagues apps; most downloaded apps are seldom used after a few attempts.  Major publishers favor the control that a mobile site offers, especially when it comes to ad-supported revenue models.

The Ecosystem

  • Appstores aren’t working for India focused apps: the Apple appstore is the only one that has figured out how to get developers paid but unfortunately very few Indian users exist on their platform.  Android/Nokia/Microsoft need to get their act together.
  • Development skills are scarce:  those that are available are working on outsourced app development projects for the US market.   This makes them hard to hire for apps focused on India where app revenues are likely to be much lower.
  • Mobile payments are caught up in a regulatory quagmire.

Despite all the challenges, a number of interesting companies are betting their future on the development of the app world, both locally in India and globally.  Some of my more memorable conversations today:

  • Telibrahma:  Apps that use “augmented reality” to enhance the effectiveness of traditional advertising media
  • TrackEveryCoin:  Personal finance management
  • Infosys Flypp: a white-labeled AppStore platform
  • July Systems: mobility middleware for media businesses and enterprises
  • Guruji: a mobile ad network serving (over 1.5B impressions a month)
  • InMobi: claims to be the largest independent mobile ad network (over 40B impressions a month)
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  1. satpal
    April 29, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    i do not remember guruji was thr. i do not know if guruji is mobile ads.

    • Shyam Kamadolli
      April 30, 2011 at 12:01 am

      Couple of them at least were there alright – and they do mobile and online.

  2. April 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Shyam

    Excellent writeup. Thanks for the positive feedback on the conference. I am glad that you enjoyed the event. It was a pleasure to have you join us at this event.

    Hope to connect later offline with you.

    We may use some of this information in our post-event press release with your kind permission :) Please let me know.

    Warm Regards,

    Vishal Singhal
    VP (Marketing)
    CellStrat Inc.
    9999 658 436

    • Shyam Kamadolli
      April 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      Happy to attend. Please let me know how you want to use the content.

      • vsinghalus@gmail.com
        May 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm

        Hi Shyam

        Is it possible to get your email address ?

        Best,

        Vivek

  3. Mangesh
    May 3, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Excellent summary Shyam! :)

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