A new breed of apps are being developed in India, taking into account the behaviour and needs of the growing mobile internet audience in the country called Offline Apps, with the capability to offer functionality even when users are not connected to mobile data, such apps are the need of the hour in emerging markets like India.
In the digital era we talk about the internet as if it is ‘always on’ but for the majority of Indians, this is far from the truth. We are thrifty people as a culture, and we tend to switch off data when it’s not needed – for example, while we are at work or in class, during the night before sleeping or in the morning when busy getting ready to leave the house. We wait for a free wi-fi connection to download apps. Many people adopt such tactics to save their valuable data
Why would we do this in a country where mobile call and data rates are among the cheapest in the world? Well, the rates may be cheap, relative to other countries, but in the context of per capita income, data is expensive for most Indians. This infographic from the JANA blog puts it in perspective;
Against the backdrop of these figures, it begins to make sense why Indians seek to conserve data, even if they are using a ‘cheap’ 2G plan.
So here are some interesting examples of Offline Apps that I have been noticing in the Indian context;
Mobile TV without the internet:
Doordarshan is offering a free of cost, internet-free mobile TV service on smartphones, powered by a DVB-T2 dongle that can be purchased online and connected to your smartphone. Once you download the software/ app required to power the service, you do not need an internet connection to view DD channels. The national broadcaster claims to have started operations in 16 Indian cities, since February 25. This works as a great example of Offline Apps (Source : NDTV)
Ride-Hailing without a data connection:
Even in a low network zone, taxi booking can be a pain. And without the internet, your Uber or Ola app will not work. But for the public that hails not four wheelers, but two wheeler (bike) taxis, Gurgaon-based app Baxi offers an offline feature to book a bike taxi even without an internet connection. The app sends an SMS to the server to locate the nearest taxi and sends information back to the user. The app updates and displays driver location and distance based on this information. (Source : Indian Express)
Calls without data or voice charges:
While ad-free is touted as a virtue abroad, most Indians do not object to ads as long as they are not charged for content (or for data consumed in downloading ads). Speakfree is an ad-subsidised mobile app that lets people make totally free calls (no voice or data charges). Calls are routed through a toll-free number and callers need to listen to a few ads before the call is initiated. Apart from downloading the app, no internet connection is required. (Source : Indiatimes)
Mobile banking without the internet:
With the push to increase inclusive banking through initiatives like Jan Dhan Yojana, several banks are beefing up their mobile applications. Kotak Mahindra Bank and DCB have both introduced mobile apps that require the internet only for installation but then work effectively offline. With the Kotak app, information is relayed securely to and from the bank using encrypted SMS. While DCB uses the ‘missed call’ system that many consumers in India are very familiar with as a means of communication. This works as a great example of Offline Apps (Source : Economic Times)
For me, these apps are an example of a promising new trend in mobile app development in India – user-centric app design based on inclusive thinking. When we do this, we make the world of mobile more accessible and relevant to a large number of users.
At Anant, we are open to partner with entrepreneurs and NGOs to pioneer, prototype and develop apps that can open up doors for digital inclusion. If you have an app or an idea to develop a digitally inclusive app, write to me and I will be more than happy to partner towards creating a better future!