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Vocal for Local steers desi apps to the forefront

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Thanks to the strong sentiments around the call for ‘Make In India’, some of these apps are seeing more downloads and greater interest from advertisers, say experts

Soon after social reformer Sonam Wangchuk made an appeal to adopt Indian brands, celebrities like Arshad Warsi, Milind Soman, Ayushmann Khurrana and Ranvir Shorey took to social media to join the movement for adopting Indian brands. Yoga guru Ramdev too tweeted about installing Indian apps like Flipkart, ShareChat and Roposo, extending support for #MadeInIndiaProducts.

The Bharat narrative is trending and in a bid to jump on to the bandwagon desi apps are dialling up their offerings. Thanks to the strong sentiments around ‘Vocal for Local’, these apps are seeing not just more downloads but also greater interest from advertisers. Experts say the growth for this segment has begun and is here to stay.

Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO, TheSmallBigIdea, says development of local apps started last year but the big boost has come now. “The Vocal for Local narrative has given an organic push to homegrown apps. Amongst the top 200 apps as per install volume, today 41 per cent have been developed by local developers as compared to 38 per cent in last year,” Pillai explained.

Some of the names that have come to the forefront are Roposo, Sharechat, Jio Switch, Say Namaste, LightX Photo Editor and Bolo Indya App. Apart from their popularity, we tried exploring what these apps have in store for advertisers.

Sharing more on this was Amit Wadhwa, President, Dentsu Impact, “As far as advertisers are concerned, if the consumers are downloading and using these apps, it will make absolute sense for them too. So if users shun some apps and accept others, marketers would do so too.”

With ratings anywhere between 4.3 and 4.6 on Google Play Store, the apps have generated curiosity among users and brands alike. According to experts, these Indian apps can gradually build up as an inexpensive alternative for brands to communicate as compared to their international counterparts.

While none of these apps are new, most of them have got a new lease of life with renewed interest from users.

Talking about the increase in user interest, Gopa Kumar, COO Isobar India points out, “There is a huge Vocal for Local chatter amongst everyone, post the Prime Minister’s call for self-dependence. We are seeing great interest in the Indian-made apps as well and seeing a surge in the download of some apps like Bharat Messenger etc. were inactive in play store but suddenly seeing positive engagements.”

However, experts are quick to add that consistency and engagement are two areas the apps must work upon to draw advertisers.

Gaurav Tripathi, Founder of Joynt, a video-first talent marketplace app, agrees with Kumar. “If the apps deliver value, monetization will happen,” he said.

Some of these apps have already managed to monetize their platforms. Over the past six months, ShareChat for instance has executed more than 50 campaigns across diverse market segments and worked with over 25 brands, including the likes of Facebook, Coca Cola, Oyo, MTR, Airtel, Pepsi, Future Group, MXPlayer and Snapdeal.

Their core value proposition is centred on micro-influencer led word-of-mouth on digital catering to regional audiences. Though ShareChat’s monetization focus continues to be ad-led, they are also exploring other opportunities than drive value for users.

It is to be noted here that apart from social media apps, apps in other segments such as food, travel and retail are also making the most of the #Vocalforlocal and #Atmanirbhar vibes.

After all, the app needs to solve a purpose and if that is served well by desi apps then both customers and advertisers don’t mind getting on to it. “If there is a choice between two apps, people invariably lean on to the one that has a simple navigation, intuitive UI and overall trust from a privacy perspective. If we have a desi app, we will surely use it. People prefer using MakeMyTrip, Yatra over Expedia or Agoda any day. Similarly, Zomato is preferred over Uber Eats. Brands will go wherever the mass is. If these desi apps are able to pull crowd, then brands will surely go for them too,” said Ankur Pujari, Co-founder and Growth Lead at Hyper Connect Asia.

While the Vocal for Local call opens up various opportunities for these apps, there are others who have found new markets in the lockdown period. Launched by Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar this March, Humsafar, for instance, remained dormant for a short period before finding a new market outside urban India.

With a 4.6 rating on Google Play, the app that delivers diesel to doorsteps expanded its reach in the lockdown period.

Sharing further on this was Humsafar Co-founder Sanya Goel, “The lockdown period opened up a very large rural segment for us. Farmers and agriculturists required a steady supply of diesel to continue harvesting, traditional methods of sourcing fuel was an inconvenient option. Now thanks to doorstep diesel delivery, they get their required amount of fuel, anytime, at the click of a button. The large population of the country is an asset, there is room for many players to operate and succeed. As long as Indian apps have a robust IT infrastructure, desi apps should have a high survival rate.”

Not just Goel, most experts suggest that it is simply the size of the economy that opens up a huge scope for homegrown apps. “India has about 1.6 million app economy jobs as on August 2019, a growth of 39 per cent from 1.208 million in 2016. The sheer size of this ecosystem assures you that there is going to be a surge of Indian apps in the near future. We, at TheSmallBigIdea, have been very upbeat about the surge of local apps since 2018. TSBI Bharat specifically focuses on working with Indian apps with great local and vernacular strength for our regional clients,” said Pillai.

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Tasmayee Laha Roy

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