At the TiE India Internet Day last week, the session on mobile apps looked into several issues. Some notes from the session, moderated by Kunal Bajaj, founder of SocWorx:

The Numbers

– Import of smartphones: “India imported 30 million smartphones in the first four months of 2013. We’re looking at 70-90M smartphones to be sold this year. Next year, we’ll look at 200 million,” Arvind Jha from Movico Technologies added. To this, Jonathan Bill from Vodafone pointed out that 70-90 million smart phone imports is equal to three European countries today. “We have 40 million smart phone users, soon to go 100 million. That’s the entire European market online in India in the next six months. We constantly make excuses as a collective industry that we can’t address until it is 90% of the potential users. It’s there for the taking. Is someone going to take it?”

Monetization & Mobile Advertising

– Mobile advertising is broken: Gautam Gandhi from Google said that the opportunity is there for a mobile apps ecosystem because both the cost of data and price of smartphones are coming down, but the question is whether users are going to pay for apps. Else, there needs to be a good mobile advertising ecosystem in place, but mobile advertising is broken, it’s un-targeted and it doesn’t profile right currently.
– Content owners are experimenting, learning: Nokia and Microsoft are a lot more active in terms of getting apps on platforms, but the content guys now want their content to be made available to consumers via mobile, Robosoft founder Rohit Bhat said. “People are experimenting with the version 1.0 of their apps, to see how they can tweak it to monetize better. In the western markets however, it’s much more mature with a good payment model in place.”
CPM Rates: On apps, we see 70-80 cents CPM in the Western market, and 10-15 cents in the Indian market.
– Hanuman Chalisa On The App Store: Jha pointed out that Hanuman Chalisa was the top grosser app with in-app purchase on the App Store for India.

What game developers are doing: They start by doing 8-10 games, and look for which ad network to tie up with which geography. No one is shooting wildly.

On Telco Pricing On the Internet

Jha thinks that India is in a transition period of 3-5 years, with the form factor and price points being worked out. “I think we’ll get to 500-600 million mobile Internet users. The poorest person spends Rs 1.5 Rs a day. If you get people Internet in a Rupee per day, they’ll use it. Jonathan Bill didn’t quite agree, saying that India is the lowest ARPU market on the planet and the highest license fee market globally. “As an operator, we can’t invest more. Our pricing has declined, our OPEX is up 60%, let alone the license fee, and the cost of finance”.

Indian Languages

Responding to MediaNama’s question on the Android customization Robosoft had done for a handset manufacturer, Rohit Bhat said that they had done Hindi and four South Indian languages, however it didn’t do particularly well from a market acceptance perspective. The handset was priced at Rs 4000, and it could have been a failure of marketing. The handset developer had created a device with only six buttons, and the operating system in the background. The buttons – Calling, Torch, and mostly simple functionality, targeting the bottom of the pyramid. “It didn’t click the way we anticipated.”

Gautam Gandhi added that his first project at Google was to look at the Hindi interface for GMail, and it doesn’t get any pickup. However, consumption of local language content has been fantastic. “We look at YouTube, and local language content had done very well. They don’t know exactly how to write an email, but they know how to go on YouTube and watch a soap opera. There’s an appetite for digital media.”

Arvind Jha said people aren’t ready for a localized user interface. “The average user is not comfortable with entering his language of choice, and it is hard to do. Unless we come down to handwriting in local languages, it’s going to be some time before it takes off.”

Curation

Jonathan Bill made an interesting point about the opportunity of curation in a category – “If you want to find all the Indian apps right now, you download an app called Android India. That’s the same as enterprise in my view. Does the telecom operator want to build an app store for enterprise? I think there is a market out there for curation. Search doesn’t work. Most popular app doesn’t work and Most popular free apps doesn’t work, since the list never really changes.”