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Startups Gearing up for the Smartphone Generation
Monday, 15 October 2018 16:12

Biswarup Gooptu and Peerzada Abrar track the booming mobile services market, poised to touch 166,830 crore by 2016

Even as consumers move away from the tethered world of the personal computers to mobile devices, an increasing number of startups are shifting their focus to the Indian mobile services market, arguably the fastest growing geography for mobile based services.

Having identified India as their core market, these companies are developing products ranging from cloud platforms to application software and mobile commerce gateways. These are specifically designed for the local marketplace, but have the potential to be replicated for global audiences too.

“Every waking hour, the mobile is becoming a device not just for communication but also for computing,healthcare, finance,education and entertainment,”saysBala Parthasarathy, who runs Angel Prime, a business incubator that is incubating a mobile payments company. “Around 30% of auto-rickshaw drivers in Mumbai have smartphones,” he adds.

Industry players point out that there are a number of factors that favour the growth of the business in the country, enabling them to reach out to both consumer and enterprise clients. India’s mobile subscriber base is estimated to touch 700 million in 2012, while the connections are poised to cross 900 million. Mobile services revenue is estimated to be at $30 billion (166,830 crore) by 2016, according to research firm Gartner. The growth has been driven by innovative pricing and the continued expansion of mobile services in semi-urban and rural India.

According to a 2011 report released by financial services firm Avendus Capital, conventional wire-line broadband is likely to be eclipsed by the introduction of 4G and the growth of CDMA dongles. This is expected to have a spill-over effect on related industries such as e-commerce, healthcare and education, as the Indian consumer, across demographics, has increasing access to the internet through mobile devices. 
Smartphone shipments are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 40%. In 2010, the contribution of smartphones to the overall mobile handset shipmentscontributedamere2.5%.Thecontribution increased to 7% in 2011 and is expected to grow to 29% by 2017, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

“The availability of faster network, increase in number of relevant and affordable applications and devices will open up huge opportunities for entrepreneurs and grow the mobile ecosystem in India,”said Abhishek Chauhan, senior consultant, information and communications technology practice, Frost & Sullivan.

The good news is that in India, with over one billion population, “the penetration of smartphones is low and growing at a rapid pace, which means a substantial opportunity for everyone to grow”, said Chauhan. ET profiles six mobile startups that have developed innovative mobile services and platforms for the Indian markets.


Capillary Technologies uses artificial intelligence to help retailers understand customer purchase behaviour. The three-year-old startup provides retailers with mobile-based customer engagement and loyalty referral solutions in real time. The company was founded by entrepreneur duo Aneesh Reddy and Krishna Mehra, both IIT Kharagpur engineers, when they observed that the mobile phone was the best channel to tap Indian consumers compared to sending e-mails or offering them loyalty cards.

Capillary provides their technology to big retailers such as Peter England, The Collective, Raymond, Pizza Hut, Lakme and Oriental Cuisine through 10,000 stores across India. It has around eight crore consumers in its database. They do transactions worth 1,000 crore per month. Each month, it sends out 15 crore mobile messages such as discounts and offers, on behalf of the retailers to the customers. “But we use artificial intelligence to send you the most relevant message based on your choice,” says Krishna Mehra, who was earlier a researcher at Microsoft Research India. After successfully implementing the product in India, Capillary is now tapping markets such as South East Asia, UAE, South Africa, the UK and USA.


Founded by Wharton Harvard and IIT alumnus, Pipal Tech Ventures is an early-stage technology company that has developed a mobile application, delight circle. Launched in 2011, the Bangalore and Boston-based startup’s flagship product organises relevant information that a consumer needs to make a purchase from brick-and-mortar stores.

Once downloaded onto the device, the free smartphone application allows the consumer to see all the stores in the range of 500 metres to1kilometre,and aggregate sall retail offers, coupons, loyalty cards information, in order to help the consumer make a more informed choice. 
The app also allows in-store identification ability, for which a patent has been filed in the United States, and location-based marketing. Next on the agenda is developing the capability of comparing prices and making payments. “It took us a year to develop the product, and we plan on monetising it through tie-ups with retailers. The consumer does not get charged for the service,” says Pipal Tech Chief ExecutiveSmritiKankaria.PipalTech,which was initially funded byangelinvestors, plans to go for its first round of institutional funding by July 2012. It plans to raise about $2 million (11 crore). “The Indian mobile market is a very lucrative one at the moment, and is poised to be even more so down the line. The service that our app offers does not exist in the country right now. There are challenges, but they also provide a window of opportunities to entrepreneurs,” says Kankaria.


Ideophone is a one-year-old startup, which collaborates with the Railways. Their mobile phone application, Pyka, saves travelers on Indian trains from missing their stations by automatically calling them once they are about to reach to their destination. 
Ideophone’s first product was a mobile application, Suruk, which works as handheld digital meter for autorickshaw and taxi rides. Bala Sundara Raman (Sundar), along with cofounders Sandeep Bhaskar and AnenthGuru, developed the product after being fleeced several times by autorickshaw drivers who had rigged their meters. Ideophone’s other product, an application that sends an alert if a person is in danger, is already being used by security agencies in countries such as Nigeria where kidnapping cases are on the rise.Today,Ideophone has got around one lakh unique users from 80 countries, including India, Pakistan, Thailand, Africa and the US.


It is the India mobile opportunity and access to talent pool that triggered entrepreneur Indus Khaitan to relocate to Bangalore from SiliconValley.He is part of the founding team of BitzerMobile, an enterprise mobility startup, along with Ali Ahmed and Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur Naeem Zafar. The company has built a platform that enables employees of large companies to remotely access their office data on their mobile devices, smartphones and tablets. The company is in talks with large Indian supply chains and retail and infrastructure companies to implement its product. BitzerMobile has already bagged a Fortune50 company as it customer, which will implement the product for its 10,000 employees. 
Last year,NewYork-based Acero Capita land Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures invested a first round fund of $4.75 million ( 26.4 crore) in the firm.


Foundedin 2007 by a group of ex-SAP employees, Unvired, formerly branded as Indience InfoSystems,has developed a cloud-based mobile platform that caters to the enterprise mobility market. Unvired’s platform – Unvired Infrastructure India – allows corporate personnel to access critical data from their mobile devices while on the move, and provides multiple deployment choices. The product allows companies to access their human resource management, enterprise resource planning, approve business workflows and view business dashboards from remote locations.

The company’s clients include steel major Jindal Steel and Power. “We had our mobile product ready by 2010 and our cloud-based product was launched earlier this year. India is a massive market for us, and the future growth of the industry is here,” says Dilip Sridhar, co-founder and vice-president, Indience InfoSystems. The next stage of product evolution includes increasing the platform’s footprints into enterprise systems and building business solutions for a number of industry verticals. While the company is yet to raise any funds from institutional investors, and is debt-free, according to its founders. It expects to kick start its initial round of institutional funding from June this year, and plans to raise between $3-5 million (16-27 crore). The funds will be utilised to expand its sales and marketing network in North America, and to develop products. “We have built the product here,but are making sure it is also for the global market,” says Sridhar.


Voicetap, a Delhi-based technology startup focused on mobile-education, has bagged two of the country’s largest mobile operators – Airtel and Tata Docomo – as customers. The three-year-old startup’s technology allows students to assess themselves and also access actual educational content and counselling services using the mobile phone. Voicetap founder Mrigank Tripathi, a former telecom consultant, spotted the opportunity for mobile-based education services when he found that his niece, a high scorer in her class 12 exams, was unable to find the right information on career choices. On Voicetap, students can find the topic of their choice and the names of relevant experts on a mobile website. They can then listen to a live, recorded or user-generated call on the topic. Voicetap currently has over 75 content providers and over 2,000 experts covering various verticals such as education, health, finance and lifestyle. Voicetap, which expects to earn revenues of $3 million (16 crore)  by the end of this financial year, aims to replicate this model in other emerging markets such as Africa and Latin America. It has begun to work with Safaricom, a leading mobile network operator in Kenya.