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Friday, December 03, 2021

Made in India, but for the world: Why Indian developers have to look outside for revenue

Apple WWDC 2019 | While it will be easier for Indian developers to make Android apps and thus get bigger numbers, they know those users are even more averse to paying for apps.

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | San Jose |
Updated: June 6, 2019 9:25:33 am
Mohit Sureka, founder and CEO of Spiel Studios giving a quick demonstration of his Man vs Missile app. (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

“Made in India, but made for the world.” This seems to be the mantra of Indian developers at Apple’s annual World Wide Developer Conference. While this does mean Indian developers have been successful in creating apps that are popular across the world, it also underlines the sad fact that most of these products are not successful within India, especially if they are paid apps.

Mohit Sureka, founder and CEO of Spiel Studios which created the popular Man vs Missile app, says most of his five million downloads have happened in the US and China. The app has a freemium model for monetisation where users spend to get upgrades or past a hurdle, so it helps as most of his users are in geographies where people are willing to spend on games. “They (China) are the users who don’t mind spending on a game or getting a subscription,” says Mumbai-based Sureka, adding that the US is still the number one market.

“Getting into the top 10 there is the success by default because you would end up with 1,00,000 downloads a day,” he explains, again highlighting why it didn’t make much sense to create a gaming app just for India.

Take the case of Note Shelf for instance. With over four million paid users globally, Fluid Touch’s app is a success in any sense of the term. But in India, the $10 app, despite all its great features and low latency note-taking capabilities, will struggle to find users.

“People are not addicted to notes, unlike games, music or even sports. So the scale is just not there. If we have 100 million users, we can make a living with a freemium model, but not with the numbers we have,” explains CEO Rama Krishna who runs his venture out of Hyderabad.

Fluid Touch CEO Rama Krishna with the Note Shelf 2 app. (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

While it will be easier for Indian developers to make Android apps and thus get bigger numbers, they know those users are even more averse to paying for apps. In fact, Krishna’s app has got Google funding to be on Android where he now gets paid for each download. “That is till a threshold number, after that we are on our own. I will have to cut the price to $1 on Android to get the numbers,” he adds.

So many developers have no option but to choose an ad-funded model to sustain themselves, especially in the Indian market. Man vs Missile, for instance, gets 60 per cent of its revenues from ads. “But the ECPMs are so low in India that we make the same revenue with a tenth of the same users in the US market,” Sureka says, underlining how even this is not a great solution.

This is where WWDC becomes a good opportunity for Indian developers to not just learn how to make their apps better, but also to learn ways to market it better in markets like US and Europe where Apple is very strong and revenues much better.

Software Systems founder Hemant Kumar with Enpass Password Manager app. (Express photo by Nandagopal Rajan)

But the success of paid services in India in recent times seems to have given some companies the confidence to try unique models. Enpass Password Manager by Gurgaon-based Sinew Software Systems private limited is a good story in this context. Despite lacking users in India, the $10 app has over two million users globally. On top of this, their product is used by other partners to protect their customers. Founder Hemant Kumar explains that 93 per cent of his users are from the US and Europe, and very few are in India. “That’s because this is an expensive app. To cover this we are now looking at a subscription model where the user will be able to get the app for as low as Rs 70 per month,” he says on how he wants to soften the blow of the purchase, especially in comparison to his competitors. It helps that since his app does not store any user data, it also does not need to spend on cloud storage.

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