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Indian apps on the map

You’ve just bought a smart phone and now it’s time to get the best out of it. Yes, the first step is to reach into cyberspace and download the most useful apps you can find out there. How about a weather app that using GPS will zero in on your location and tell you the weather in your vicinity?

Or, if you’re a movie fan how about downloading the FridayMoviez mobile app? FridayMoviez is a Bollywood and Hollywood entertainment website. Its free app, launched a few months ago, offers short films in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada and also a wealth of movie trivia.

There’s a whole new world of India-specific apps waiting out there to be explored. From news and entertainment to M-commerce to utilities, it’s all available on your mobile. There are apps to check out restaurant menus in Rajarhat and apps that will allow you to watch simple yoga asanas on your mobile phone.

Everyone from Indian telecom operators to device manufacturers to small-time developers are betting on apps as the next big thing. And Indian mobile subscribers too are starting to discover and explore the hundreds of India-specific apps available out there. Nokia’s Ovi Store, for instance, is witnessing eight million app downloads a week in India.

“From downloading software to games and entertainment to accessing content across genres, Indians are looking for new ways to personalise their handsets with utilities and multimedia content that makes their mobile experience richer,” says Jasmeet Gandhi, head, Devices OPM & Services Marketing, Nokia India.

Adds N. Rajaram, chief marketing officer, consumer business, Bharti Airtel: “There’s a huge pent-up demand for mobile apps in India.”

Let’s take a look at the world of India-specific apps.

The news fix

We all know that Indians love their news, cricket and movies. So it’s no wonder that every media house from leading English newspapers to television channels like NDTV to regional language papers like Dainik Bhaskar and Dinamalar is launching its own mobile app.

Forex dealer Dev Mehta, for instance, says that whenever any big news event breaks, he tunes into the NDTV app on his Blackberry for the latest update.

“Publishers are taking a lead in delivering India-specific apps. Indians want to know the latest news,” says Rahul Pande, co-founder and CEO, Converse Today, which has developed apps for Dainik Bhaskar and Vogue.

Adds Rohith Bhat, managing director and CEO of Robosoft, a leading global developer for Apple, which has created the NDTV and Dinamalar apps: “News-based apps are doing extremely well in India. People think that they’re mostly used by the diaspora, but that’s not the case.”

Indeed, developers like the Udupi-based Robosoft, which have focused on the international app space it’s created hit iPhone apps like Camera Plus, which has got over 20 million downloads are now turning to India. “I feel that smartphones may be within the reach of the common man by next year. Then, the apps space in India will really take off,” says Bhat.

Meanwhile, independent developers are eyeing the news-and-information genre too. Take a look at Bangalore-based Taazza, founded by US-returned techie Arjun Ram. In the US, Ram had helped publishers like the Wall Street Journal use technology to deliver its content better. Not surprisingly, he launched a free location-based news and information app, TaazzaGo, in India in November. It’s featured among the top five Android apps in India on AppBrain, a website that tracks Android apps.

TaazzaGo provides hyper-local content across six verticals: news, deals (through tie-ups with discount sites like SnapDeal), events, listings, citizen info and weather. Once you turn on the app, it detects your location via GPS and automatically retrieves the relevant content from your city or neighbourhood.

“Most people spend 70 per cent of their time around places where they work and live. Yet finding information within that radius can be difficult. So the moment you locate yourself, we show content arou-nd you,” says Ram.

This information fest isn’t limited to urban mobile users. Webdun-ia.com, an established mobile value-added services player, has created apps like Mandi Rates for rural users. With it, they can check the rates of agricultural and other commodities at mandis across India. Vishal Dakoliya, national business head, development, Webdun-ia.com, says: “Rural customers in India will now take to apps in a big way as economy handsets have become feature-rich.”

Movies, music and more

The mobile’s known as the fourth screen and there’s plenty of entertainment on it. You can check out several movie apps for the latest Bollywood gossip. There’s Movie Zone, available in seven languages including Bengali and Tamil, and Bollywood Ji and Bollywood Hungama too.

There are several streaming music apps too like Saavn Music and Raaga. And if Yupp TV, which streams Indian television channels live, has been a hit with the Diaspora, there are similar mobile TV offerings in India too from Mundu TV to Apalya, which beam live Hindi and English channels here. Or how about watching short films made for the mobile on the FridayMoviez app?

Now, you needn’t feel deprived either if you don’t own a smartphone to access these fancy apps. For new entrants like Jigsee Inc, a Canadian-Indian mobile video streaming start-up set up by Ray Newal and Areef Raza, are looking to serve mobile users just like you. After all, the “middle of the pyramid” of mobile subscribers with Java feature phones constitutes the bulk of the Indian market. Jigsee, which is launching on August 15, is targeting this very segment.

And it’s not relying on high-end 3G networks to do this. The founders have leveraged their background in wireless technology to “build a product that we saw as important for developing countries”. Says Newal, who’s also the CEO: “A huge section of the population has no other means to access video for entertainment or education other than the mobile. We feel this is a greenfield opportunity.”

Jigsee will deliver video on low bandwidth Newal says it can deliver continuous video on as low a wireless network speed as 50 kbps and on Java feature phones. Basically, the technology adjusts the streaming quality to the network speed for a smooth experience.

Jigsee has created a 100,000-minute content library across the Bollywood, spiritual and infotainment genres through tie-ups with firms like UTV. With a GPRS connection, you can watch anything from short films to educational content.

But hold it right there. Movies isn’t the only source of entertainment, right? After all, cricket beats Bollywood in India. No wonder, there are heaps of cricket apps from IndiaGames’ hit IPL T20 Fever to CricBuzz to Cricket Zone. You can even re-live the magic of gully cricket with NextWave Multimedia’s paid gaming app, StreetCricket.

Now, if you’d rather play in the spiritual realm, there are enough such apps too, from the Hanuman Chalisa to Gurbani. Bangalore-based Sourcebits, a leading international developer for Apple, which is now creating apps for Indian firms, is developing an app for a Mysore-based guru. And on Samsung’s app store, the Hanuman Chalisa and Hast Rekha on palmistry have been very popular. “The Samsung app store has seen an exceptional increase in India-specific apps which are getting the attention of Indian users,” says Rajesha Kumar, general manager, R&D, Samsung Electronics.

Business first

According to a recent global study done by Nokia with Trevor Pinch, a leading sociologist and professor of Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University, 77 per cent of Indian smartphone users have up to 30 apps on their mobiles. And the most popular apps that Indians use are social networking apps followed by music, business, utilities and games.

To be sure, the several business apps available can help you do anything from mobile banking transactions to locating the nearest ATM. Banks like ICICI Bank have their own apps. Moneycontrol Markets on Mobile gives real-time information on the markets, while there’s NSE Mobile Trading too. There are personal finance apps like My Tax India too.

On the right track

Did you know that on AppBrain, four of the 10 most used Android apps in India are related to travel? And that three of them are about Indian rail travel alone?

There’s the popular Indian Rail Info App, Indian Rail PNR Status Enquiry and Indian Railway Schedule too. Apple’s App Store too has several railway apps. Players like MakeMyTrip too have launched mobile apps.

Services and utilities

Forget social networking sites like Facebook. Indian companies, especially Internet firms, are waking to the possibility of reaching out to customers through the mobile. No wonder, when Moiz Ahmed decided to watch Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara with his wife, he turned to the popular BookMyShow. He tapped onto BookMyShow’s mobile app and by the time he reached office, he’d already checked the show timing, selected his seats and purchased his tickets too.

Like BookMyShow, Internet firms like Burrp!, which provides listings on restaurants, movies and shopping, Zomato, a restaurant review service, and bus ticketing firm RedBus, have launched their apps.

“Indian companies across sectors from news to e-commerce are creating mobile apps today,” says Rohit Singal, founder and CEO, Sourcebits, which has created internationally hit iPhone apps like Nightstand and Knocking the live video footage sharing app has got two million downloads. Sourcebits is now creating apps for several Indian firms.

Meanwhile, some developers are looking at creating that killer India-specific utility app too. Like Cochin-based student start-up MindHelix Technologies, which launched Tuk Tuk Meter, a popular Android app or digital meter to calculate your autorickshaw fare. (There have been similar apps like Suruk before it).

“We never imagined that it would become a hit,” says Kallidil Kalidasan, co-founder and COO, MindHelix. Tuk Tuk Meter has got some 28,000 downloads so far, he says. It can be used on any mass-market phone that supports GPS. Tuk Tuk Meter 2 even has pre-loaded auto fare rates for over 10 cities like Pune and Lucknow.

What’s more, MindHelix’s developing other utility apps too. Like Sentinel, which is aimed at working women. This security app works on the Java platform. The user must feed three mobile numbers and two email addresses into the app. When faced with a threat, press the alert button and in three minutes, the app will send SMS and email alerts.

Clearly, then, there’s an app for every need and interest out there. All you need to do is get on to the space and discover it for yourself.

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