The business of app development in 2016

When Robosoft Technologies ventured into software development in the mid-90s or into mobile app development in late 2000s, crystal ball gazing wasn’t in vogue. Now that it is, especially around this time of the year, let me share my views on the business of mobile app development in the months to come.

Actually these are not fantastical, futuristic, wondrous developments (‘aliens will code!’) but more of realistic takes based on what I have observed over the past few months.

Willingness to pay premium on design

This is more of a hope than a conviction but I believe product owners and marketers looking to develop mobile apps will finally realise the importance of good design and be willing to pay a premium for it. Over the past many years, we have battled with customers to acknowledge the role of good design in creating best-in-class consumer experiences. While some evolved customers realise this and budget time & monies for it, a blasé attitude does exist with much of the industry when it comes to design. It is time we shifted our attitudes to getting out a Minimum Lovable Product and not just a viable product. I realise that it takes an industry-level effort to bring about change – efforts from VCs, mobile industry platforms like IAMAI to incubate startups and include design education, as part of the process is a welcome move. We recently partnered with NASSCOM to conduct a workshop on creating ‘meaningful mobile experiences’ precisely with this objective in mind – hopefully such efforts will have a positive impact on the ecosystem in the months to come. Another factor driving this change is competition. The concept of USP is long gone when it comes to consumer-facing apps too; so for a grocery shop, e-commerce brand or a messenger-based help service app, the user-experience driven by design is a powerful differentiator and catalyst for brand preference.

Brands and games

I was hoping that brands investing in bespoke games would be trend last year, but we didn’t see that happening in India. But it can be a win-win for both consumers and brands if done right. In the US, we partnered with Dave & Busters – an arcade game driven restaurant chain, to create two mobile games that allowed for points to be redeemed at the brick & mortar restaurants. Consumer goods brands that target youth have a big opportunity to engage with their audience through mobile games. In India, 64% of the apps downloaded are games. Indians spend on an average 3 hours 18 minutes a day on their smartphones with one-third of that time on mobile apps. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all brands should create games – it is a highly cluttered category to break into and not all categories are suited for a game. If not bespoke games, brands can consider riding piggyback on games, which are relevant to their category. A food brand or a kitchen appliance brand may consider associations with popular cooking games.

Journey after the app submission

While development companies of various sizes have their markets, I strongly believe that the premium end will belong to those who can go beyond app strategy, design and engineering. For a lot of companies who have a strong track record in mobile app development & deployment the journey after the app submission is still a black hole. App marketing and analytics offered as an integrated service would prove to be a differentiator – albeit at the high end of customer profiles. On the Star Chef game, we handle over 1 billion transactions a day, deliver thousands of customized offers based on user behavior and acquire new players using innovative user acquisition strategies. I realize the immense potential of such big data, which allows to constantly fine tune our offering. In the coming months, clients, especially in Enterprise Mobility will seek to work with mobility partners with such capabilities.

Up until now, our customers from developed markets like the US have shown a penchant for paying a premium on design, investing in bespoke mobile games and acknowledging the need to track app analytics & pay for app marketing. I hope such changes will be seen in Indian shores too this year.

An abridged version of this article was published in ET Tech.

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