Games2win’s success on the iOS platform is not an isolated event. A clutch of India-based mobile application development companies are emerging as trendsetters on the global stage. And these winners are across both productivity apps and gaming apps alike.
Apart from ‘Parking Frenzy’, another app which became the No 1 paid app on the US app store is ‘Nightstand’ from mobile app development firm Sourcebits. The app features an alarm clock which displays date, time and weather information and became an instant hit owing to its simple and attractive user interface. Another winner from India was ‘Super Badminton’, a game by Pune based Rolocule Games which innovated by creating the first ever mobile badminton game and moved to No 7 on the US charts.
Most recently, Chennai based Ten Miles also tasted success with their productivity app ‘Wonderful Day’, the app moved to No 2 in the productivity charts in the US. Their simple formula – a things to do app which encourages you to stay focussed on your daily tasks, be it going to the gym, catching up on your reading or watering the plants. All in all they have been at least 10 apps which have made a mark on global app stores.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, partner at the One97 Mobility Fund points out the reasons for this trend: “While there have been some productivity app successes, bulk of the winners are gaming apps. And if you look at the winners, it’s not as if they are remarkable apps design wise or game play wise. What we have managed to do conceptually is understand the requirements of the user, in essence what the user desires be it with gaming apps or productivity apps.”
In the last two years as the use of mobile devices has surged worldwide, there has been a rise in the number of talented developers seeking to build products around these devices. “Hiring has become much easier as compared to earlier, we hired as many as 150 grads from BITS Pilani and IIT this year. For our design requirements, we hire from Europe and the US,” says Rohit Singal, founder of Sourcebits.
As fresh graduates do not always have skills tailor made for the mobile ecosystem, most firms deploy training modules to help train engineers and make them mobile ready. A strategy which has been used successfully by mobile solutions provider Photon Infotech, which today has 1,500 employees with over 1,000 mobile developers, making it one of the largest mobile development establishments in the country.
Srinivas Balasubramanian, founder of Photon Infotech tells us, “Be it usage, revenues, funding – if you track any metric linked to smartphones, there has been a 100% increase year on year. We help a lot of start-ups build their mobile products and clearly the exponential increase in the market is the wave everyone is climbing on to.”
The other big plus that is contributing to the boom in mobile application development is increase in investor attention. In May 2011, Sequoia Capital and IDG Ventures invested $10 million into Sourcebits. In February this year, Mumbai-based Gamiana raised approximately $1 million from the Indian Angel Network, while in June, Rolocule Games raised an undisclosed amount from a consortium led by the Mumbai Angels. Earlier this month, Matrix Partners made an undisclosed seed investment in Indore-based Twist Mobile.
According to data from Venture Intelligence, a research firm focused on Venture Capital and Private Equity, the mobile consumer apps space has seen as many as nine investments amounting to approximately $18 million since January 2011.
To cut through the clutter each app development firm has adopted varied strategies. The horses for courses policy is clearly paying off for most of the players. Those pursuing a large user base typically offer their applications free of cost, a model that Games2Win has pursued successfully.
“Building a large user base for us is key and even though we were making as much as $3,000 per day through advertising on Parking Frenzy, we decided to switch it off and instead promote our other game Super Mom,” says Alok Kejriwal, co-founder and CEO of Games2win.
In the following weeks, the company clocked up 200,000 downloads for Super Mom, building up a large community that has seen the app become the No 12 most popular free app on the iOS App Store. “If your goal is to build a large community to monetise in the future, free is the way to go. However, if you are building a utility app, the premium strategy might work better,” says Rajesh Rao of Dhruva Games, one of the oldest game development studios in the country.
The key is in sustaining the popularity on the store as in the case of Games2win, which adopted a unique strategy to build on the popularity of their hit game “Parking Frenzy” to their entire suite of products. While Games2win has adopted a free app strategy concentrating on building a large user base, which they plan to monetise in the future, others such as Indiagames (nowDisney Indiagames) have taken on a different approach. Its most popular games in the recent past have come through partnering with large brands such as the Indian Premier League or movies like Ra One, where a large part of the costs are recovered through in-game advertising within the game.
A similar strategy has been used by Rolocule Games, which tied up with Dunlop to increase brand recognition and promote their game ‘Touch Squash’. “Tying up with a larger brand certainly helps you get recognised and helps you recover a percentage of your cost even before you launch,” says Anuj Tandon, chief executive of Rolocule Games. The most common strategy used, however, remains the premium apps strategy, one which has worked very well for the Sequoia-funded Sourcebits.
“Our most successful app has been ‘Night Stand’. We have seen over three million downloads from the app and it has grossed us over $1 million in sales,” says Rohit Singhal, founder of Sourcebits. “Unless there is difficulty in monetising the apps, no business model works better than a premium model.” Sourcebits today has ramped up its operations and has as many as six offices across the globe with over 500 employees.
The investment community sees these various monetisation options as a big opportunity to scale up the mobile app development industry in India. “The quality of game design and game play from Indian studios has been steadily improving. A large number of mobile app development services companies are becoming hot-beds for new product start-ups,” says Karthik Reddy of Blume Ventures one of the investors in Rolocule.
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