Entrepreneurs Tej Pandey & Anuraj Ennai, Co-founders, Mobiotics IT Solution Pvt Ltd tell us how with their app – TV BuddyTej, what is TV Buddy all about?
TV Buddy is a social TV platform customized for Indian viewers’ tastes and preferences. The TV Buddy app, currently is available on Android market and is due to be available on iOS marketplace soon, aims to transform TV viewing into an interactive experience. TV Buddy is integrated with Facebook (we have a Facebook web app available as well) and uses social networking capabilities to the fullest. Users get notified when their friends are checking out a particular program and can interact with them within the app. Inviting friends to watch a program along with you, and receiving invites from your friends are simple to accomplish with the app. TV Buddy also allows users to rate and review programs, set reminders and set favorite programmes/channels. Behind TV Buddy is a real time customizable platform that allows custom integration with EPG data feeds, STB control interfaces, Live TV feeds and advertisement feeds and provides valuable analytics to partners and content providers.
Are there any other mobile apps in the market similar to TV Buddy? What is your USP?
Tata Sky mobile app on iOS provides a social checkin feature directed towards Tata Sky users. This app is not a social conversation platform, and lacks the full feature set provided by TV Buddy. TV Guide apps on Android primarily provide EPG data only and are not centered around offering social experience. TV Buddy is built around the concept of social watching experience and is thus targeted towards the social networking generation that is open to sharing and networking.
Tej, can you please detail out the app features? Is there any feature that excites you the most?TV Buddy features include; Real time push notification when your friends checkin to programs, Interact with your friends right from the app, Checkin to programs you like and let your friends know what you are watching, Invite your friends to watch a program, Get your friends' invites right within the app, Rate/Review programs, View trending programs, Add program reminders, Set favorite option for one click access to your favorite channels and programs, search/discover programs using our comprehensive TV program guide supporting 130 plus channels and all major DTH providers. We are also working to bring Live TV feeds to our users. The feature is already tested and shall be released soon.
Real time push notification to one's friends should encourage viral viewing of TV content. Our trending programs list should enable the user to checkin to the most popular programmes being aired without any effort to search. Soon we shall be introducing the most popular and best rated content options.
How much time did it take to code the app?
TV Buddy platform is built as a massively scalable, customizable social TV platform on the cloud which can accommodate millions of users. The platform together with the mobile app and server components, took us close to 6 months, to get to the beta stage. It would have been far more easier to do a scaled down prototype, but we think TV viewing is undergoing massive paradigm shifts and requires a thoroughly thought out platform to support next generation user's changing needs and demands, hence the massive effort from our end.
Can you share any interesting technologies that you used to build the client and the cloud server app?
Our cloud service uses the high availability, high performance architecture used by some of the biggest services on the web. The service uses Simple DB and memcached for high performance and scalability. The server is fully automated and do not require any manual steps for data updates. Our algorithms search the web and fetch data without any intervention. Our analytics platform is built using Hive and gives scalability and flexibility for auto generating reports. We can easily scale the server to support millions of users without any code/configuration change.
What is your choice of cloud technology? And, why?We use Amazon EC2 for all our cloud needs. EC2 gives us the flexibility and portability required for supporting large apps without tying us down to the platform. Pricing is also reasonable for small startups like us.
When and where did you come up with the first prototype of TV Buddy app? How did you come up with the idea?
We started a private beta test of TV Buddy app in the 1st week of August, and launched public beta in September 2nd week. We also tested the platform with our Facebook app which is fully interoperable with our mobile app. Our initial research confirmed that TV viewing is the primary entertainment for majority of Indians. Average Indian watches 2 hours of TV every day. In the recent times, usage of social networks is booming in India - with Facebook having the maximum pull. We wanted to engage the Facebook-ing generation on to TV, and thus came the idea of TV Buddy.
Which platforms next, other than the current Android & Facebook apps?
We will be launching iOS version within a month. Windows 7 is another platform that is of interest to us.
Are there any reasons you took a native app development approach, instead of a cross-platform approach like PhoneGap / Appcelerator?
We set the the highest performance standards for our apps. Phonegap/appecelerator is fast improving but has not yet got to the point where we can plan performance intensive apps on them. Ability to integrate deeply into device specific features and flexibility to take advantage of device performance are the casualty. Native apps still excel HTML5 apps when it comes to performance and flexibility. App generator tools make app development easy for web developers. Given our deep embedded programming expertise, developing on Android and iOS natively is far easier for us. That said, we would write our apps directly on HTML5 as and when it comes up to speed with native apps which would give the cross platform ability without using intermediate tools which may effect performance.
Why did you begin with the Android platform?
Android has the highest share of smartphones in India (10 million Android phones sold in 2011 alone), so it was a natural choice for us to make.
For the real-time push, did you use Android’s C2DM or do you have your own real-time push technology?
Parse is a YCombinator company which came out with an incredible cross-platform push interface built on Amazon EC2 cloud. We found Parse interfaces more intuitive and easy to implement compared to C2DM. The pricing also is very affordable. So we became their customer at the beta stage itself.
How many downloads of the app have you witnessed since the time of launch?
Public beta was launched couple of weeks back, and we have seen 2000 plus downloads till date. These downloads are mainly through self-discovery on the Android Market.
How has the initial feedback been? Did you implement any product tweaks based on the feedback?TV Buddy is still in beta phase, and we are using current feedback from users to refine the app to make it more useful for our users. For example, initial comments hinted that users were not able to fulfill the Facebook login requirement for the app. We refined the login flow in the app, we also changed the app description on Android market. And, we had seen that those changes had positive impact.
What features are you planning to add next?
We are working on several exciting features to make TV Buddy more exciting and engaging for the users. Live TV is one of those features. We are also working on Advertising and Analytics platform to offer value to our partners.
The app is free to download. So, how do you plan to monetize?
TV Buddy is a free app for consumers and will always remain so. Primary monetization shall come through selling aggregated anonymous analytics to our partners. Live TV feeds and content specific promotions and advertisements would be other means.
Any strategic partnerships that you are looking at for outreach/scale?
Carriers and content providers can use our platform to provide differentiated brand experience, as TV Buddy platform is fully customizable and can be easily integrated to their networks in a matter of weeks. We are open to content providers who want to offer paid Live TV and Video on Demand services through TV Buddy's social content discovery model. This is a service our users are looking forward to.
Why do you intend to keep the app free always?
The app will always be free for the user. We may provide a premium service like paid Live TV or Video on Demand, but users will not have to subscribe to these services to use other TV Buddy features. TV Buddy is a social network for TV viewers and restricting access is anti-social! (smiles)
Anything interesting that you would like to share with the readers of YourStory.in? Any key statistics or market trends you have noticed so far?
Majority of our users are from metros, but we are seeing people from far and wide getting on to our network gradually. Mumbai ( with 25%) tops the list followed by NCR (22%) and Bangalore (14%). Currently, men (90% of our users) form the chunk of users, but we hope that as Android penetration increases we will find more women joining the network, as we believe that TV is a natural space for women in India to network.
What are the challenges you face as an entrepreneur in mobile app space?
It is becoming increasingly difficult to discover an app due to app proliferation. So marketing strategy is crucial. Right now, businesses are not according the same priority to apps as they do to web. But with apps soon becoming a wide-spread user interface to internet, we hope this trend will change. We are still in beta phase, and would love to hear feedback/suggestions from readers of YourStory.in to improve the app.
TV Buddy tries to add the social dimension to the process of TV viewing. Agreeably, it is always more fun to watch TV with your friends and family. They are trying to bring in a similar experience via the internet and mobile space. They’ve chosen the right smartphone platform – Android! Android has a better market penetration than iPhone in India.
However, the app rides on Facebook for its social aspect. And, it does ask for a LOT of Facebook permissions –
- Access my basic information
- Post to Facebook as me
- Access posts in my News Feed
- Access my data any time
- Access my profile information
If you thought the third one was scary, the second one is even scarier! This could be one of reasons for the slow adoption so far. When people distrust Facebook and Google, Mobiotics might have to go a long way to convince its customers that the experience it provides does not cost their privacy.