India's app market sees nearly 100 million downloads a month, and developers are cashing in.

Soumya Nandi (21) of Kolkata has been hooked to ‘Ra.One Genesis' – a game that has seen over 3 million downloads in India. He uses a Nokia smartphone and is addicted to the games downloaded on his handset. And when he isn't playing games, he is constantly in touch with his friends through Facebook Chat or WhatsApp.

Nearly 1,700 kms away in Chennai, P.R. Rajendran, director of Nextwave Multimedia, is trying to build a business around these very mobile applications. He says the apps economy is well suited for smaller firms like his, which focus on developing content.

These are the two sides of the rapidly increasing app economy in India. Across the globe, hundreds of millions of people like Soumya have ensured that the mobile app economy – estimated at nearly $4 billion (Rs 20,000 crore) in 2009 and expected to grow to $18 billion in half a decade – continues to expand exponentially. This, incidentally, has led to an explosion in the number of developers who are trying to cash-in on the wave.

“The Indian app market is huge and is bound to grow in the coming months. Keeping content intact, new revenue models are bound to evolve. But yes, success depends primarily on the utility of the app and its acceptance,” said Yogesh Bansal, Founder and CEO, ApnaCircle.com, which recently launched its Application Programming Interface (API) platform.

Indian apps

Vodafone India's Beta app store (launched in December 2011) crossed 2 million downloads and BlackBerry's App World sees monthly downloads numbering 174 million. Nokia has nearly 48 million monthly downloads.

Market sources estimate that nearly 100 million apps are downloaded every month across different platforms, not surprising, especially since the number of mobile internet connections stand at nearly 30 million. And with smartphone adoption on the rise; mobile app developers are finding new ways to break into the market.

According to Gartner, worldwide smartphone sales (to end users) soared to 149 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 47.3 per cent increase from the fourth quarter of 2010. With the Indian mobile apps market now pegged at nearly Rs 750 crore ($150 million), there will be a steady growth in downloads across various platforms including iOS, Blackberry, Nokia and Android.

Monetising content

Vishal Gondal, CEO, UTV Games, points out that moving from an operator-dominated ecosystem to a handset-makers platform has made all the difference for app developers. “We can have our own distribution channels,” he says. Even revenue flows are different. With only 30 per cent of revenues being retained in the ecosystem, developers have a margin of 70 per cent for themselves.

The company has hit pay-dirt with successful games like Ra.One Genesis, IPL and even movie-based games like ‘Agneepath'. Rivals grudgingly admit that the company's Ra.One game has set a benchmark for rivals to follow.

Success stories

Rajendran's Nextwave is another company which has been successful in its endeavours. With growth more than doubling year-on-year, the company, which started in 1995, has seen a sea change in its fortunes through its applications like Mobile Bowling, Speed Rider, Comics Creator and Word Rider.

Indore-based Twist Mobile is another successful applications developer. The company, who's apps have seen over 34 million downloads in the Nokia Store, has seen its revenues shoot up from $4 (Rs 200) a day in 2009 to nearly $1000 (Rs 50,000) a day in the short span of two years. Games like Age-Effect and Zoolex have been its most successful ventures.

“Ideally, apps are made keeping in mind the market and psychology of consumers. While in India free apps are popular, paid apps are more popular in developed nations,” Virat Khutal, founder and CEO, Twist Mobile told eWorld.

Bangalore-based Divum has come up with an “All Terrain Vehicle control” app for Nokia that allows users to steer the vehicle through Wi-Fi from anywhere. This apart, its applications designed for F1 and cricket – where minute by minute updates are provided – are very popular. Divum has also found success in its astrology and horoscope apps and its regional content-based game on Lagori.

While media and entertainment apps (including games) are the most popular, utility apps, especially free downloads, are also finding favour amongst users. ‘Walletex' , ‘Icon Browser' and ‘MR Recorder' are some of the more popular utility apps.

New entrants

With saturation no where in sight, it seems like the Indian apps market is also appealing to new entrants. Mango Games, India, which launched the beta version of their Bollywood themed social game, ‘Don: The Social Mobsters', is eyeing entry into the mobile (games) app market.

California-based mobile app developer, Evernote which has tasted success in the global app market, is looking to start operations in India soon.

(This article was published on April 1, 2012)
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