Engagement, user experience critical for homegrown apps to succeed: Analysts

According to Greyhound Research Founder and CEO Sanchit Vir Gogia, any app, especially in the social networking space, can never be successful if only launched for the purpose of serving one single country or market.

The ban on 59 apps with Chinese links has opened up opportunities for homegrown players to accelerate growth but they will have to ensure good user experience and engagement on their platforms to be successful, according to industry analysts.

Homegrown apps like Roposo, Chingari, and others claim to have seen manifold growth in downloads since the ban was announced last month.

Some players have also announced significant ramp-up in employee base and server capacity to meet this growth in usage on their platform.

"We think that the app ban has surely opened up opportunities for homegrown players, but it won't be a cakewalk. First of all, users coming to these platforms will start with a trial mode in mind," Counterpoint Research Associate Director Tarun Pathak said.

He added that an initial uptick in downloads will be high but the real differentiation lies in the UI, features, and related stickiness of the app, and how it is better as compared to their previous experience with the banned apps they were using. That will be the real challenge for these app companies.

"Another thing is that an app is as good as its active user base, so it's not just the number of users for their app, but also about the active users engaging with the platform which will make it a success," Tarun said.

For this, they need to first go for scale and ride on the ongoing momentum to get hold of popular influencers/ celebrities on the platform, which can be used as a pull for the platform (especially in the entertainment segment related to short video format), he explained.

According to Greyhound Research Founder and CEO Sanchit Vir Gogia, any app - especially in the social networking space - can never be successful if only launched for the purpose of serving one single country or a one single market.

"Such applications require a critical mass of users to be successful, to learn from, and - most importantly - allow for the scale critical to ensure a good return for investors. Unless companies are willing to invest in continuous development, and selling of such applications across borders, many may not go beyond infancy," he said.

The question that arises then is: will India build for India or for the world, Vir said.

Eyeing the opportunity

It is not only small and relatively newer players that are vying for a share of the pie. Established players like Gaana and Instagram have also rolled out features to cash in on the opportunity.

Gaana CEO Prashan Agarwal said the company was offering 'HotShots' to Indian content enthusiasts, who can use the intuitive, seamless, and snappy tools to create and share short videos and stories with a 150 million-strong audience.

He said while it was early to share target numbers for the feature, the company had huge ambitions to build this into India's largest short video community.

Industry watchers feel larger apps - given their familiarity among users and the speed at which they can bring in new features to engage users - may be positioned better against homegrown apps.

Focus on data privacy

Players will also have to be cognisant of data privacy rules.

While there may be areas that the current policy framework does not address, digital platforms have to be careful about collecting sensitive and personal information and using that for monetisation purposes.

Another important aspect that needs to be focused on is removal of bias of any sort, especially for social media apps.

Vir said the US was seeing the Black Lives Matter campaign, and there are similar instances in India where religion, caste, and domicile are often used to target a certain group of individuals as well as issues around child abuse, political motivated speech, and hate speech.

"Despite all their efforts, many companies still continue to have issues in their approach towards how they manage such sensitive topics. This goes to show that building a social network needs ongoing feedback from multiple parties and the company needs to be committed to working with the government and other bodies to ensure such sensitive information is taken care of," he added.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)


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