Apps: More from mobiles

Apps: More from mobiles

College going Aaliya loves her new pink Blackberry smartphone,and the reason is simple. “I bought this handset just because of the Blackberry Messenger.

College going Aaliya loves her new pink Blackberry smartphone,and the reason is simple. “I bought this handset just because of the Blackberry Messenger (BBM). If any other handset would have had the same mobile application,I would have bought it.”

If one were to analyse Aaliya’s consumer behaviour—innovation in mobile applications or apps in tech parlance,still has a long way to go in our country—to satisfy consumers like her. The $2 billion Indian mobile apps industry,which includes value added services,network-based services and enterprise apps is dominated by telecom operators and is primarily driven by them. On the flip side,independent mobile application companies face their own challenges and are dependent on the big carriers. Even handset providers are in a phase to realise their responsibility and opportunity in this space.

As per industry standards,the telcos keep 70% revenue share in the apps sold in their apps stores. The rest 30% is distributed amongst the application developers. It is exactly the opposite in the West,where companies like Apple keep a 30% cut and give the rest to apps providers.

There are a range of mobile apps companies which have come up in the last few years in our country. These innovative minds are helping telcos with their declining average revenue per user (ARPU). We get in touch with a few established,and a few budding mobile apps companies to read their minds and analyse what the Indian consumer wants.

Rajesh Razdan


Founded: 2007

VC funding: Jan 2009 worth $3-$5 million by Canaan Partnership

At present: 85 employees,annual revenues $3-5 million


The challenge is to reach the common man in India,feels Rajesh Razdan,founder of mCarbon,a mobile applications company which started three years back and has 85 employees at present. Start-ups of his scale face a lot of marketing and branding challenges. “We are doing certain alignments with telecom operators such as Airtel to reach the audience. As per industry standards,we get 30% revenues of the apps sales and rest is kept by the telecom operator.”

mCarbon has initiated two major applications. One is the Airtel call manager which helps the user to have customised caller tunes saying,“I am in a meeting,call me in 45 minutes”. It also has another application which is like a pocket magazine,called Channel 99. This helps subscribers to read news,music downloads,articles etc on their mobile. The content is driven by mCarbon.

On the dark side,Razdan believes that the mobile application industry strives on ‘one shoe fits all strategy’. He says,“Classification and categorisation of applications is lacking at present. Developers need to come up with customised apps on consumer based,network based and enterprise applications.”

In the present scenario,all apps of the company are white labeled,but Razdan has a different vision for the future. “Handset providers are taking precedence now; they are taking the first call in terms of what application should they have. Brand and recognition with telcos has gone down because of too many players and devices will soon take the center stage in terms of choosing an application,” he notes.

He is also optimistic that with mediums like Pay Pal,m-cheque etc,the 70:30 revenue sharing norm between telcos and application providers might change. With new ways of collecting money from subscribers,apps providers can have a simpler distribution model,Razdan feels. He concludes with a relaxing smile,“The first wave has already started. It has to be a technology and innovation driven story. Applications will dominate. Devices will dominate.”

Most popular applications:

Airtel Call Manager: Launched on May 2010. 8,00,000 active subscribers in partnership with Airtel and Idea.

Price: Rs 30/month.

Channel 99 apps: A pocket magazine with 10,00,000 users in collaboration with Airtel

Sanjay Uppal

COO and President,OnMobile

Founded: 2000

At present: $125 million annual revenues

‘Infotainment’ is the buzzword in OnMobile. Amongst the 19 million consumers of this mobile application firm,more than half are subscribers of applications built on the lines of music,sports,astrology etc.

Sanjay Uppal,COO and president at the company believes that business and enterprise applications have not taken off in India. “Even if the business applications are built,they are very consumer centric in the form of utility. For example,m-banking,m-cheques,payments etc. Applications are not aggressively used by various business organisations to connect people,manage supply chain etc. In the West,it has taken off very well. We have now started exploring many avenues in the business apps space.”

At present,Uppal considers music search as the most popular application of OnMobile which experiences 25 million searches every month. OnMobile’s business model has tie ups with different telcos. Uppal explains us the dynamics behind the managed services revenue sharing model of a mature company like OnMobile: “India as country has a complex relationship between the telecom operator,content developer and the technology partner.

As a result,the revenue earned by the application provider is 10-40% of the total share,depending on what the content developer absorbs.”

Nevertheless,Uppal concludes that “operators have trust with the consumers and this puts us in a very strong position.” Simultaneously,he believes that handset providers have a very important role to play in the coming future as Indian consumers find it a hurdle to go to the apps store.

Most popular applications:


Ring Back Tone

M-Radio service for music lovers


Vijay Shekhar Sharma


Founded: 2000

VC funding: Intel Capital (Mauritius),SAIF and Silicon Valley Bank India Capital Partners

At present: 900 employees,Rs 115.96 crore annual revenues

A decade old One 97 is a perfect blend of entertainment,utility apps,business apps or consumer apps. The company’s founder and managing director Vijay Shekhar Sharma feels that in spite of mobile entertainment and social networking applications capturing the top slots,the corporates are not far behind. “Consumers are getting smarter and are using mobile apps for everything from stock trading,ticket booking,finding jobs to anything and everything,” he says.

He illustrates that One 97 has built a mobile application for leading travel site Make My Trip. Consumers use this to book tickets through their mobile phone. Even is available on the mobile phone of the consumers to upload,update and circulate their resumes to find new jobs. “Many handset providers and telcos now have their personal apps stores and the risk is shared between application providers like us and the apps stores owners,” he notes.

Most popular applications 15,000 tickets are booked through their mobile apps on Make My Trip per week 1,000 people use mobile apps to upload resumes and search jobs per day

Arun Menon

CEO,Onward Mobility

Founded: 2008

VC funding: $0.5 million by Mumbai Angels in March 2010

At present: 80 employees,$2 million annual revenues

If you have lost your phone,or you want to hide your personal SMSes from friends and foes—Menon is the man with the appropriate mobile applications. His two-year young company ‘Onward Mobility’ follows a very unique business model with no tie ups with telecom operators. It has an independent distribution channel.

Menon directly sells his applications to retailers and enjoys a 60% revenue share in the applications sold. He counts Mobicop as his highest sold application,which helps users to block their SMSes and retrieve their contact details if their phone is sold. Mobisecret is another application which helps in hiding private SMSes,which an individual is unwilling to share.

Menon’s distribution strategy is his strength. Onward Mobility covers 40 towns in the country at present and is already present in over 10,000 retail outlets across India. The company has also entered into strategic partnerships with many content publishers and intends to roll out their partner products like games,music,entertainment,and other content through their unique offline distribution channel in the next few months. The company presently plays on 3 major applications,but plans to develop 12 in the near future.


Menon has a realistic view on the mobile application industry. “We face a lot of challenges today and the apps market is just shaping up in India. We need to fill certain gaps: GPRS penetration,the predominance of prepaid connections in the country which results in low balances.” He further adds that the lack of ‘do it yourself’ attitude of Indians refrains them from downloading mobile apps themselves,and they are dependent on others(retailers) for the same.

Most popular applications

MobiCop: 2 lakh apps sold in one year

Mobisecret: 1 lakh apps sold last month