The need for an enhanced app store ecosystem

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The need for an enhanced app store ecosystem

India is in the middle of a digital transformation. The rapid acceleration in smartphone penetration and access to affordable mobile internet has digitally empowered over 600 million Indians making India the world’s largest online market.

This has also led to a thriving ecosystem of tech entrepreneurs and innovators building digital solutions for India, and the world. India’s app ecosystem also leads the world outside of China; with the highest number of apps installed and used per month. In 2019, nearly 20 billion app downloads were registered in India – about 10% of the global total.

The increasing digitization has enabled wide adoption of e-governance initiatives, entertainment and gaming opportunities, online learning platforms, as well as communication and collaboration tools. All this has led to a flourishing app economy well-aligned with the pace of global innovation

MAKING FOR INDIA

India’s diverse communities and demographics lead to multiple consumer segments – one size, doesn’t fit all. While it’s a challenge to address such a broad and diverse potential consumer base, it also opens up opportunity to build hyperlocal and niche products for individual segments.

An enhanced app ecosystem–with multiple options for consumers–offers the opportunity to serve these pockets as well as to build for multiple languages, several regions, and diverse social structures to cater to a larger user base. The Indian market is not a homogenous market of English-speaking, urban dwellers, and hence products and apps made for India need to embrace the diversity of the country and develop locally relevant content in multiple vernacular languages to drive the next phase of app growth in India.

DEVELOPER OPPORTUNITY

Mobile apps are a significant part of our lives – an average smartphone user in India spends about 3.5 hours a day on the smartphone, essentially on a mobile app – mobile developers and publishers use a variety of ways to monetize these apps.

There are paid apps that developers can publish to an app store with a revenue split arrangement. For a free to download app, there is in-app advertising allowing developers to generate revenue on impressions or clicks or in-app purchases allowing enhanced experience by making small purchases. Partnership with smartphone makers for pre-bundling is another revenue generation vehicle for such businesses.

The exponential growth of apps in India makes the market too crowded, although it validates the strong growth of the app economy and testifies the low barrier to entry. There’s also a huge demand for mobile app developers, the core job profile to run the app economy. The booming developer opportunity as well as newer avenues of revenue generation point to the evolution of an enhanced app ecosystem.

THE NEXT BILLION – LOCALISE TO DEMOCRATISE

As the popular industry term goes, despite the growth in smartphones in India, there’s still a long way to go to – the next billion, that is. Instead of a forced push, the mobile ecosystem will need to demonstrate definite benefits to these people and how their participation in the app economy will help them alleviate their lifestyle, lead to upskilling and reskilling, as well as advance their social and economic setup.

There’s also half a billion feature phone users in India – the core of the growth opportunity in the market for smartphone brands to telecom operators and to the app developers. However, again, there is a need to incentivize these users paving way for their journey towards smartphone migration. Most of these users are neither English speaking nor do they have an email. A smartphone will also be their first internet device and hence their approach to the world wide web will be different from more evolved users and digital natives. An enhanced app store, hence, needs to focus on minimum barrier to entry and offer intuitive browsing and discovery to aid their journey towards apps and online content.

THE ATMANIRBHAR PUSH

The Indian app ecosystem is also in the middle of transformation amidst a growing sentiment to decouple from global players, increased focus on data sovereignty and privacy, as well as solving for India.

The Government of India, for example, launched the Atmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge last year to identify and help scale up existing apps and incubate new ideas across e-learning, healthcare, agritech, e-commerce, news, gaming, social networking, entertainment, and work from home technology. This push for self-reliance will boost domestic entrepreneurship while aligning with sustainable, global free-market principles.

Instead of protectionism, an enhanced app ecosystem will allow the rise of India’s app economy in a globalized digital environment with demonstrated commitment to digital freedom, data privacy, and cyber security principles. The ‘vocal for local’, hence, is a call to build for every Indian and scale that to the world.

SUMMARY

India’s app ecosystem is on the cusp of transformation and with 5G around the corner, there will be emerging use-cases in telemedicine, virtual learning, and mixed reality.

Indian app developers as well as technology startups and enterprises are well placed to elevate from being the IT back-office of the world or building clones of successful global digital products to develop uniquely Indian products for the 1.3 billion of us.

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