We at YourStory.in recently caught up with the co-founders(Shyamal Mehta, Amit Rana, Prathibha Shastry) of JiniLabs, developers of India TV Guide, a mobile application for TV lovers in India. India TV Guide helps users watch their favourite show on TV without missing.YourStory.in Technology Editor’s Take:
It is good that India TV Guide takes on both iPhone and Android market. Some apps just focus on iPhone market in India and lose out because, iPhone penetration is not high in India, yet. They seem to have taken the approach of creating native applications for both Android and iPhone instead of taking the cross-platform route (like PhoneGap). This approach lets the developers take advantage of platform capabilities that are unique to a specific platform, but might take effort to synchronize the two releases. Social network integration especially with Twitter / Facebook can provide realtime updates to one’s network.
The future opportunities could be to include native language input (since words in local languages can be spelt in various ways in English), crowd-sourced recommendations, letting the user to choose between syncing schedules over WiFi or mobile network etc. India TV Guide is a great effort, and we whole-heartedly recommend you trying it!
Below are the edited excerpts from the conversation with the founders:
Are there any other mobile apps in the market with similar offering? Yes. There are a few similar apps in the market, but all of them stop at providing programmes schedule. India TV Guide goes beyond providing schedules to offering more engaging features. India TV Guide app can be used offline as well. It has intelligent data synch feature that allows data synchronization whenever you are online, so that you have access to your schedules, alarms/reminders even when offline. We provide very simple and beautiful UI. We provide support for widgets on Android phones. None of the other similar apps are available for iPhone.
Tell us in detail about the app’s features. Which feature are you most excited about?
India TV Guide provides schedules of around 200 plus channels with listings for the next three days, and the app works offline as well. We are working on increasing the advance notification period. The app lets users to group channels as favorites to have an instant snapshot of what is currently running on them. You can set reminders with the app. It allows for easy integration with google calender. We have search feature to look out for a programme or a channel. It allows you to post to Twitter and Facebook to let your friends know that you are watching a particular programme at a particular time. We do not run ads on the app. The Android app has a home screen widget and a live folder support.
The most exciting feature according to us is that the app works offline.
Once your app downloads the TV guide data offline, is there a way to change the guide? (For example, some natural disaster struck or Anna went on fast and the schedule changes)
Yes, we check for updates once a day. Updates can be addition of new programmes or changes in the existing programmes. This happens often (and without the need of natural disasters(smiles)). There is also a manual refresh option, which can be used to get latest data. In case the user is using home screen widget on Android, data of their favourite channels keeps getting updated automatically.
How easy or difficult is it to access programme data across various channels? Do you use web crawling or screen scraping?
It is very difficult. We had to contact all 200 plus channels to get the programme data and data comes in different formats so uploading that is also another big task. We do not use web crawling or screen scraping as that would be against the TV channels usage policy.
How much time did it take to code the app?The basic app took three to four weeks to build, but we constantly keep updating, we have released more than 22 versions of the app so far!
Other than the current Android and iPhone, are you looking at releasing the app for any other platforms?
We are interested in Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.
Did you face any issues with Android fragmentation?
Yes, managing same look and feel on different screen sizes plus maintaining same performance on all kinds of devices is little bit of a challenge.
Share your experiences of launching the app on Android and iPhone. Which one is better market to be in, according to you? Why?
There would be around 10 times more Android phones in India than iPhones, but 10 times more iPhone users are active app users than Android phone users. It is difficult to say as of now which market among the two is attractive, but it is clear that you cannot ignore Android.
Tell us about the number of downloads so far on both Android and iPhone. How has the adoption been so far?
We are nearing 50,000 downloads on Android, and since iOS was launched recently we are at 12,000. Adoption has been great so far with lots of positive feedback from users on both platforms.
The app is free as of now. How do you plan to monetize then? Any plans to charge for the app?
We do have some plans to monetize, but however the app will always remain free for users. We are working on a model to tie up with TV channels.
Tell us about the kind of feedback you received from users so far.
We mostly get two types of feedback. One is to add more channels to the app and sometimes to show live TV.
What features are you planning to add to the app based on the feedback from users?
Soon there would be lot of features built around social integration and recommendations.
What are the challenges you face on a day to day basis as a mobile app entrepreneur?
Major challenge is, lack of data to base decisions on. There is absolutely no dependable information available on number of smartphones in India etc.
Finally, anything interesting that you would like to share with the readers of YourStory.in?
Bangalore and Mumbai totals 32% of our users followed by 10% in Delhi. Although now more number of users are in metros, but initial downloads were from really small cities!
What are your views on this app? Share with us by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do check out India TV Guide for further details!
India TV Guide was also one of the Top 10 apps at TechSparks 2011 App4India.