The Indian Mobile App Race: The Race Mobile Messengers Are Winning.

With more and more users having access to mobile devices and using it more frequently, there is a lot more opportunity to tap in the app market space.

The mobile market in the country is beginning to open up both in terms of devices and technologies available. Companies in most segment seeing this trend have realised the importance of the mobile platform, and some even decided to give it the same weightage as its web counterpart. With more and more users having access to mobile devices and using it more frequently, there is a lot more opportunity to tap in the app market space.

According to the latest TRAI report, the wireless subscriber base in India stands at 873.36 Million. 2013 also saw the growth of the smartphone market in the country, vendors shipped a total of 12.8 million smartphones in Q3 2013, as compared to 3.8 million units in the same period of 2012. (Source)

Million User Apps India

Here are some interesting trends from the mobile app landscape in India.

Rise of the messaging apps

The year saw the rise of messaging apps in the country, with the introductions of new messaging apps and the substantial growth of existing ones. Gone are the days of SMS. Now everyones on a messaging service, in some ways a cheaper option and more versatile in features compared to its archaic counterpart, the SMS.

mobile messengers

Popular mobile messaging app WhatsApp crossed 30 million monthly active users in India, back in December 2013. It currently has over 400 mn users worldwide. According to the company’s head of business development, Neeraj Arora, its partnership with telecom operator Reliance last year to give free service to college goer, a potential move to drive the adoption to mass market, also did phenomenally well.

In June 2013, Hike, a messaging app by Bharti Softbank, a joint venture between telecom major Bharti and Softbank crossed the 5 million user mark, since its launch in December last year.

Japanese messaging app Line, which launched in early July 2013, gained 5 million users within just three weeks of its official launch, and in October 2013 the app crossed 10 million users in India .

Messaging apps in India have been going all out to attract users. Apps like Line & WeChat have been actively marketing on television. WeChat even roped in Argentina football star Lionel Messi for its TV campaign in India, especially as it is seen as a fast growing smartphone market.

Inspite of this rise among messaging apps, some of them came under the scanner of authorities owing to their origin. The Chinese messaging platform launched in India by ibibo, WeChat was under the Intelligence Bureau scanner due to security concerns about its Chinese origins.

In the past, SEBI had also objected to WhatsApp and BBM conversations.

SMS based apps are fizzling out as more and more users move to data based messaging services. A major supporting factor for this trend is the reductions in data rates by telecom companies.

The Government’s App Store

The year that went, 2013, was a big year for Gov Tech. According to industry analysts, the Indian government was expected to spend nearly $7 bn on technology products and services in 2013.

Last year the government started rolling out a set of “m-governance” applications for Android and Java based phones through its app store. You can read more about the governments mobile app initiatives in our detailed coverage of GovTech in India [Rewind 2013].

Now Go Online Shopping On Your Mobile

Ford AppLink Last year saw ecommerce giants, and Flipkart finally launch their respective mobile shopping app.

Flipkart launched their Android app, back in September 2013, and in October Amazon India followed suit by launching its Android app.

The following month, Amazon India and Flipkart launched iOS apps of their respective mobile shopping app for the Indian market.

Last year also saw, online marketplace Snapdeal launch a mobile shopping app for iPhone users. The company which already has mobile applications for Android and Windows users claims that 30% of all orders it takes comes from mobile phones.

“Over the last six months, iOS has emerged as the second most popular operating system after Android, accounting for 12% of the mobile traffic on Snapdeal,” the company said.

Mobile Apps Are Going For Local Languages

local_language_android_keyboard_thumb.jpgLast year also saw signs that the next thing for apps to do is go local language. Many apps that supported vernacular languages have crossed major milestones and device manufacturers like Samsung also tapped into the local language market to improve sales in the country.

Some of the important changes in the local language app scene.

  • Samsung partnered with Reverie to launch interfaces in regional Indian languages. The phone manufacturer launched the interfaces in 9 Indian languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati. The new interface is supported on Galaxy Grand, Galaxy S4 and Tab 3.

  • Samsung also tied up with app developers and content providers to offer popular applications like Bharat Matrimony, Ganesh speak and BSE amongst hundreds of other applications in vernacular language for users.

  • Plustxt, the text messaging app optimized for Indian languages, got acquired by One97. The app allows users to text message in any Indian language – as well as language keyboards.

  • In August 2013, GupShup Messenger launched multi language support for its users. Nine Indian regional languages namely Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu have been made available along with English. The company boasts of a 60 million users base  in India.

More Apps To Get You On The Move

taxiMany of the cab services that raised venture capital over 2013 have launched their mobile apps. One of the main advantages the cab services going offline is that it reduces the cost of them having to run a call center to manage their customers, which is an expensive affair. Even from the customer point of view, an app can be easier and quicker in most cases to use.

In February 2013, car rental service Savaari, which raised about $1 mn from Inventus capital last year, started piloting its Android app in Bangalore and two other cities. The app not only tracks the running status of the cab, but also keeps a track of toll and parking fee among others to give a complete bill at the end of each trip to the customer.

TaxiForSure, which launched in June 2011 in Bangalore and has now started services in Delhi, also launched a mobile application for its customers.

Similarly radio cab service provider Meru Cabs launched an Android and iPhone app, after most of its smaller competitors have launched their mobile applications. The app comes with an emergency feature that customers can use to alert their trusted ones in case of an emergency.

In July, Nokia launched HERE Maps to its Asha Platform, which works without the GPS. The Here maps on Asha 501 needs cellular network data to offer you drive, walk and public transport directions.

In September, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation(IRCTC) launched its app for Windows 8 users, a move IRCTC expects will increase the number e-ticket bookings.

Earlier in June IRCTC had also released a railway ticket booking system via sms, for people without internet.

San Francisco based premium cab service Uber launched its service in India, along with the Uber app, in 2013, starting with Bangalore. A move the saw many of the other existing operators introduce premium cars to their service.

 Offline mobile mapping services company Sygic has made its app for India, free for Android users. The free offline navigation app for Android works without an Internet connection and is powered by map data from MapmyIndia.

Apps Distribution Is Going Offline

apps dailyDistribution of mobile applications in India has always been tricky. The popular belief is that Indians don’t buy apps. But surprisingly, there is an offline distribution network for apps and it has sold apps worth thousands of rupees to Indian smartphone users.

Appsdaily (Onward Mobility), founded in 2010 by IIT Bombay graduate Arun Menon has been selling mobile apps to customers through offline stores for some time now. Till now the company has sold more than 1 million apps through over 10,000 retail outlets in 70 cities. Earlier in October 2013, AppsDaily raised over $5 mn in series B funding from ru-Net, IndoUS Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures, according to a new report.

Biscoot Aap Bazaar, an offline app store by Shotformats Digital Productions. The Offline App Store distributes apps and other digital content through more than 10,000 mobile recharge and accessory stores in 20 cities in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP, and other states.

With signs like these we will be looking at new emerging app consumption and distribution model the coming years.

Music Streaming Goes Pro To Offer Offline Access

SaavnSaavn, the popular music streaming app, began the year by going Pro, enabling offline listening. Following this the music service signed an exclusive partnership with UK-based Shazam Entertainment Ltd, to offer its users a new way to discover the latest tracks from their favorite artists in Bollywood and other popular genres.

In May, Saavn also partnered with Tata DOCOMO to offer subscribers, who recharge with selected 2G packs, 100 MB of free data to stream Saavn music.

Beginning of the year Gaana, which ran as a web based app, launched mobile app versions of its streaming service for Android, iOS, Blackberry, Nokia and Samsung devices. In March, the company also launched its app for the Windows Phone platform, with a UI customised for the Windows Phone OS.

gaana_offlinelisteningMeanwhile the company also launched Gaana+, a pro service that supports offline listening and multi bitrate and importantly, an option to download songs as well.

In January 2013, California based Dhingana, a streaming service for Indian and Bollywood music, launched its service on mobile web, making it available to all web-connected devices with no need to download an application.

Over the course of the year Dhingana launched Radio Jockey(RJ) curated radio stations, Dhingana Gold, its subscription service for iOS users, partnered with telecom operator Idea Cellular to launch a co-branded music subscription service. But now news of its imminent shutdown has surfaced., the online service for Bollywood, Regional and South Asian music entertainment content, also launched a new mobile app. The app, available on iOS and Android and BlackBerry 10, gives users access to music tracks & music videos from Bollywood, International, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and other regional content.

Telecom major Vodafone India launched Vodafone Music, a music streaming service for its subscribers. The service was launched in partnership with Hungama Digital, and will offer will offer audio and video streaming and downloads.

Social Apps To The Rescue

Earlier last year when the floods ravished parts of Uttarakhand a lot of people swung into action to help with rescue and relief efforts including Google which launched their Google Person Finder service within a few days of the flood.

To support the rescue operations, App Company launched a Person Finder iOS app which brings the service to iOS devices. The iOS app provides a message board for survivors, family, and loved ones affected by a natural disaster to post and search for information about each other’s status and whereabouts.

Windows 8 Exclusives

Unlike Android and iOS, Windows 8 is not a popular OS, except for the Nokia Lumia users. Inspite of this, the year saw very two important exclusive app deals with Microsoft, exclusively for the Windows Phone platform.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched its official app exclusively for Windows 8. The app was developed in partnership with Microsoft.

Amar Chitra Katha, the Indian comic book publisher, has launched its official ‘ACK Comics’ app exclusively on Windows 8.

Other Activities From the Indian Mobile App Space

TimesCity, a venture by Times Internet Limited(TIL) has acquhired Gawbl, an Android based app which suggests food based on the user’s mood, for an undisclosed amount.

TimesCity, the location based web service, is also present on mobile (Android, iOS, BlackBerry), and lists movies, restaurants, pubs and real time events. The application is present in 11 cities including Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune.

txtWeb, the open platform for SMS based applications txtWeb, has entered into a license and distribution agreement with Karbonn phones, to make available a range of apps via the txtWeb app platform on Karbonn phones.

Important milestones from the Indian App space

Twitter & Instagram user management app, JustUnfollow hits 5 million users.(October)

Open platform for SMS based application, txtWeb Crosses 10 Million users in India.(May)

Productivity app Evernote hits 1 million users in India.(February)

Messaging app WhatsApp crosses 30 Mn active users in India.(December)

Japanese messaging app, Line crosses 10 mn users in India.(October)

Bharti Softbank’s messaging app Hike crosses 5 million users in India.(July)

Apps That Crossed the Million Mark

User Base in India


30 Mn


10 Mn


10 Mn


5 Mn


5 Mn


1 Mn

According to Informate Mobile Intelligence, 6 out of the top 10 applications used by a SmartPhone users in India today are Google brands.

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