Recently, while passing a KFC outlet, I was amused to see an ad in the window that screamed ‘100% Veg. Paneer Zinger!’ An ad that you are unlikely to see in a KFC window in their home country of USA. The irony that struck me, is that a franchise that gained its fortune on cooking up Finger Lickin’ Good chicken, is busily advertising its vegetarian credentials.
But that is India for you. As we have been told through numerous marketing case studies, the mighty MNC brands from Hyundai to P&G, from Samsung to Coke – have all ended up customizing (or even innovating new products) to succeed in the Indian market. Even to the extent that they extended themselves way beyond their comfort zone or core DNA (I am sure the irony of 100% Veg. was not lost on the senior management of KFC either.)
Today we are seeing a major initiative from the government around “Made In India”. Taken in its true sense, this is not a narrow jingoistic cry to eliminate foreign goods. Rather, it is an appeal for us to provide a viable local alternative using our intuitive cultural understanding of the Indian market. It represents a fantastic opportunity for local startups and SMEs to offer a healthy competition to large MNCs using the power of ideas.
Readers who live in Mumbai may be familiar with the name of Manoj Pasta – a roadside food stall in Mumbai’s plush Cuffe Parade. They claim Mukesh Ambani’s son is a regular here. Manoj Pasta offers premium priced (Rs.200+) pastas and pizzas on the streets. One of their most intriguing dishes is a ‘red pizza pasta khichiya’. Neither did Italians think to mix pasta and pizza and who would have thought to mix a Gujarati papad with pasta? But Manoj Pasta did – and the tastebuds and rave reviews by diners is a testimony that it works. Only an Indian brain, with an understanding of what Indians like – could have thought of khichiya pasta.
So I have a question. Why do we not apply the Made In India thinking, to our app development process? You may be thinking, that apps are already made in India. But that’s not quite true. The underlying technology framework that Indian app developers work with, is a foreign one. And I believe, that we need to work with Indian-developed frameworks, to build apps that are more in sync with the Indian market. Here are my thoughts on how that will work
- Made in India apps need to be coded in Indian languages
For example, the dominantly used programming languages for app development are all English-based. This itself, poses a barrier to many potential programmers who may have ideas, but lack English skills. Therefore it is a barrier to grassroots innovation in India. If we expect apps to play a crucial role in social development – in finance, health, e-commerce , governmental work – then app development should be possible in Indian languages. You might be interested to know that there are quite a few Chinese and Korean language programming languages that have been developed for different applications but relatively there are hardly any Indian programming languages.
Somewhere, there is an ingenious and intelligent young person who has the ability to create a life changing mobile app. Should we deprive him/her of this opportunity just because he/she studied in a vernacular medium and does not understand English?
- Made in India apps need to be available to end users in Indian languages
In a predominantly vernacular speaking country, I find it hard to digest that there are so few Indian vernacular apps. Nearly two decades ago, when internet first came to India, we failed to develop localized language content with the result that internet penetration grew at a snail’s pace. Let’s not repeat the same pattern in the mobile era. Instead let’s utilize the momentum of the mobile revolution in India to create apps in many more Indian languages, to encourage the huge base of first time users.
This is not a small task either. There are 22 official languages (including English) drawn from 6 diverse language families. Hindi (estimated 420 million speakers) obviously tops the list, followed by Bengali (83 million), Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
Making apps available in Indian language, is of course also a function of the programming and coding framework that makes it easy to generate language options and ensures that it works on all devices.
- India apps need to be adapted to the realities of mobile and internet usage in India
The localization of apps is not just restricted to languages but needs to reflect the realities and constraints of mobile usage in India. To name just a few;
- People have limited and precious storage space on their phone, so apps need to be light. 5 MB or less is an ideal app size. Even if phone capacity expands, remember that people will want to store more photos, videos in preference over bigger apps
- Apps that are made for India, need to work on slow and poor networks. The GSMA Global Mobile Economy Report 2015 observes that only 11% of the Indian population is on 3G. Independently, a report from Ericson Consumer Lab says that 88% of 2G users think 3G is too expensive – and 48% believe that in the real world, there is hardly any difference between 2G and 3G!
- And finally, Indian-made apps need to adapt to the reality that Indians conserve and frequently switch off their data. The ‘offline internet’ is exemplified by the existence of the hugely popular ShareIt that facilitates sharing of files and even apps using direct connection between phones, rather than data.
Therefore, apps that are customized for Indian market conditions need to be light and optimized to use less data/no data, while working well with slow connections. A tall order, but its possible.
Anant Mobile Platform is our answer to the questions raised in this blog. A 100% ingenuously created platform for app development, Anant will facilitate local language app development and also allow app developers to use their mother tongue as a medium to code mobile apps. Additionally, it will offer a unique interface that is light, fast and delivers a superlative app experience on any phone.
I am excited about our contribution to ‘Made In India’ through Anant Mobile Platform, and I believe that it can facilitate the next generation of app development in India!
Phani Bhushan is the founder of Anant Computing. Anant Computing helps companies to create native apps in every Indian language, that run on any feature phone or smartphone. Team Anant firmly believes that true digital inclusion will happen if every citizen of our country has the power of internet and computing at their finger tips. Our vision when we designed Anant was a more digitally inclusive India, where everyone with a mobile phone can both create and access high quality apps ,sans language barriers.