Education, healthcare apps the next big thing: Google India

Even as the Android ecosystem grows to a billion users and a million apps, Indian developers don’t have much to look forward to — apps created by them constitute only 1% of Play Store’s top 1,000 apps. Google India managing director Rajan Anandan tells Anand J what the company is doing for developers and how they can create more successful apps and distribute them better. Excerpts

By Anand J

You mentioned that roughly 1% of the top 1,000 apps on Play Store are being developed by Indian engineers…

India is the land of software developers. Look at what happened with startups — today we are creating billion- dollar ones. If you look 3-4 years back, there were no mobile internet users and now we have 150 million of them using apps. Indian developers may take a long time to get there but once they tick it will accelerate.

Android didn’t even exist a few years back and now we have millions of apps. All this happened very quickly and our developer ecosystem is just about realising the scale of the opportunity. Now we have to get the ecosystem focused on building mobile apps.

What do Indian app developers need to do to get there?
This should be built around new skills of making the user interface and design globally relevant as well as the distribution of apps. This is very different to desktop web distribution. How you make your app go viral and how you monetise are radically different. Now, the ‘freemium’ model and in-app purchases are gaining importance and paid apps are slipping.

Fundamentally, we have great coding talent and, by 2017, India will be the country with the largest number of software developers. Google wants to make sure that India is building for future and not for the past.

What is Google doing for Indian developers?
The most important thing is the Android ecosystem with a billion global users. That means if you launch a good app that is globally relevant, it can be used by hundreds of millions of users.

We help them with all infrastructure requirements. We have a developer relationship team that works with partners to make sure they are building the right apps. We have several platforms that drive discoverability like Search. The in-app advertising platform of AdMob helps them with monetisation for free apps. Mobile ad rates are lower than those for desktop as of now, but are growing at a much faster rate. Developer relations have actually helped developers improve the apps, how you get approved on Play Store, how to improve discoverability or how you monetise, etc. At the end of the day, what we need is more Indian developers who can develop more powerful global and local apps.

With more than a million apps, how will you become discoverable?
It is much harder today and, hence, you have to be very smart about how you drive viral growth. How you drive downloads and what your user acquisition channels are. Facebook had earlier built an entire revenue model around app downloads. Discoverabilty will drive user growth and that is a skill our developers have to learn. There are mobile distribution platforms and this is a whole new science. As ecosystem players, developers need to learn that and Google is helping them.

Is there a clash of interest as you help discoverability through AdMob?
We don’t let a competing app in the similar category to advertise on the in app AdMob platform. You can decide how you want to monetise through AdMob. You can decide which ad you don’t want to display in your app. We are in a market that is going to be 10, or hundred, times bigger that what it is today. The question is what is it that you can build.

Are Indian developers more adept at making apps for enterprises than, say, games?
There is a large opportunity for first converting desktop apps into mobile for enterprises and, then, building mobile-first enterprise apps. There is a large opportunity in messaging but the next horizon is going to be education and healthcare. Utility apps like health apps will be used daily by consumers and last longer. You have to generate a million downloads to make money in this ecosystem.

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