We think App-as-a-Service is going to be huge in the next few months and years, Suresh K, Pingaala
Vyasa, flagship offering of Pingaala – is a mobile social content platform that helps content providers and distributors to create native specialized apps for mobile devices without overheads. To know more about this interesting venture, we at YourStory.in caught up with the founder, Suresh K. Below are the edited excerpts:How does the Vyasa Platform help publishers and content providers?
In todays' world, information consumption on mobile devices is a big challenge due to multitude of sources and short attention span of consumers. Publishers and content providers typically take one of the 3 options:
- Specialized custom native apps - for example CNN, TOI, NDTV etc.
- Collaboration with personalized magazines and news aggregation apps – for example Flipboard, Pulse, Zite, All India News Reader
- Optimizing current websites for mobiles/webapps through HTML5
While all the 3 approaches have their advantages, there are many drawbacks as well. If a publisher chooses to take the route of creating an app by themselves or outsource it to a mobile vendor, typically it incurs large amounts of money, takes significant amount of time, one has to build & maintain infrastructure and essentially have an operations team to manage the show – all require significant time, effort and money. Most times, there is no sound business case when cost versus benefit ratio is considered.
If a publisher chooses to take the 2nd option, they lose their branding, monetizing capabilities are severely limited, have to compete with peers across geographies and so on, which makes it a less attractive option.
The 3rd option at first sight looks like the most attractive option for them. However, even though the web standards are evolving to take advantage of recent mobile devices consumption, they still lack in 2 important areas:
- Ability to take advantage of native features available on the device (e.g. camera, GPS location etc.)
- User Experience – Research has shown that given an option, most users still prefer to use native apps wherever a choice is available to them. e.g. Twitter, Facebook etc.
We are trying to address all the three issues via Vyasa.
Most platforms come in any of the 3 categories mentioned above. For html based custom apps, Mobdis and Pixblish are some of the
renowned ones. Vyasa Platform enables content providers and publishers to not make compromises. It enables them to have native customized apps taking advantage of native features of the mobile at a fraction of the cost, without infrastructure overheads and within a few hours. The native apps are fully interactive, content is available near real-time and has the feeling of a high-quality magazine. This is Vyasa Platform's sweet-spot. The platform optimizes content and has specialized ways of presenting images, videos etc. It takes out all the noise and presents the content in beautiful magazine layout for enhanced reading experience. Through Vyasa, the publisher has innumerable options to brand the app based on their preferences and branding strategies.
Can you tell us in detail about the features of Vyasa? Which feature are you most excited about?
The interactive magazine feel, provides enhanced reading experience. The platform supports configuring multiple data sources. Sources
could be inhouse CMS, twitter, facebook, RSS feeds, blogs etc. It supports moderation & review of content – so that editors can see exactly how the content is going to look before pushing it to consumers. It supports user interaction on the content such as playing videos, sharing with friends through twitter & facebook. It makes use of the mobile device's cache to provide offline access, so that users do not have to be online all the time. And most of all, we are really excited about providing this as an end-to-end platform for the publishers and content providers to answer the fundamental question of - “Do I have an app for that?” and we essentially view this as “app-as-a-service”. We think it is going to be huge in the next few months and years.
How much time did it take for you to build the platform?
It took us about 3 months to build the first version of the platform.
How did the idea for Vyasa come about?
We wanted to create a dedicated app for a celebrity. It was then we realized that there are better ways to consume information. Flipboard has already set high standards in this. We found that many publishers either have not realized the need for a well thought-out mobile strategy and most have an ordinary me-too kind of app. It was then the idea of Vyasa was born. So we build a platform which enables any publisher to create a flipboard or zite kind of native custom app easily.
Which platform was the app first launched on?
The app is currently supported on iOS platform with the Android version coming very soon.
What features are you looking at adding to the app next?
We are very excited about the platform and its potential. We have a huge to-do list. Android version is on its way. We want to further refine the reading experience with more innovations. We are looking at integrated ad platform for monetization, addition of more interactive content like trivia, maps etc. We are also working with a few publishers to understand their wishlist.
How has the response been so far?
Chipko is a showcase solution based on the Vyasa platform. We believe it is the first app of its kind in India that focuses exclusively on the social issues in india through citizen journalism. The response has been very good so far.
How do plan to make money?
We would be following a SaaS model. We would develop, deploy and maintain the publisher’s app for a nominal monthly subscription fees. The publisher can focus on the content and we take care of the rest.
How do you market the platform to relevant audience?
We are using social media to bring the necessary awareness about our platform and apps. We have also been attending various startup events. We are also directly talking to various publishers.
What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur in mobile app space?
Many challenges. We have a unique concept and platform. One of the key challenges for us is to bring in the necessary awareness about our platform. Awareness about mobile information consumption is in fairly nascent stages in India. So, it has been a challenge to make publishers appreciate the need for comprehensive mobile strategy. Other than that, hiring UX and mobile developers has been a big challenge. However, so far we have been lucky on that front and managed to get very good mobile app developers and a UX team member.
Can you tell us about Chipko, your first solution based on the Vyasa Platform?
Chipko, we believe it is the first app of its kind in India that focuses exclusively on the social issues through citizen journalism. It aggregates content from various sources, optimizes content and makes it available for consumption all in near real-time. The content is moderated for quality and relevance. If a user is interested in keeping abreast of social issues and citizen's pulse on these issues, then this is a one-stop-shop for them. The quality of content is unparalleled, and we take great pride in that. It also provides facilities for the users to play an active role by contributing their own stories and be part of citizen journalism in India.Tell us about the kind of feedback that you received from users so far. Any interesting instances that you would like to share with us?
For the Chipko app, we have received some really good feedback. On the positive side, they really like the concept and the content. A few international users wanted chipko kind of app for their respective countries. [Chipko focuses exclusively on social issues in India]. Amongst the areas for improvement, many have asked for Android support and certain specific areas on user experience. We are working on both. Android version is around the corner.
Anything else that you would like to share with the readers of YourStory.in?
World of information consumption is moving at a rapid pace. Three things are notable -
- Overload of information & short attention spans of users.
- Plethora of mobile devices and platforms.
- Many new technologies like personalized magazines like flipboard, zite etc
So, for any publisher, focus on having a comprehensive mobile strategy is absolutely essential. In fact, in one of the survey's more than 90% of smartphones users have expressed frustration in consuming news through browser based solutions and would prefer native apps to consume information. At pingaala, we ask ourselves these questions day in and day out, and are working towards helping publishers and content providers have an effective strategy through our platforms.