Mobile apps these days are a dime a dozen. Their basic purpose is to make life easier for people, but is that really the case? We are so addicted to these apps, making our lives totally dependent on the cellphone. So wouldn’t it be better to have technology in a very simple form? We asked women techies…

An overrated idea?

Shantala Bhat, Co-Founder, Gamatics replies: “Definitely! An app should be a tool to solve the problem, not a solution by itself! One should combine a real business model with an app as technology to see if the combination makes sense. If not, one should keep them separate.”

“For example, one is interested to improve education reach in rural India, but for this an app is not the solution. Reach is the solution! Having right people and infrastructure is the key,” she explains.

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Shikha Suman, founder of Medimojo, agrees with Shantala: “Absolutely. An app is just a delivery method. If a service delivery is done with quality and low cost in any other medium, an app is not needed. Startups go behind creating apps in the initial stage only, which is too overrated. Testing of concept is more important.”

On the other hand, Bhawna Agarwal, CEO, Gadgets 360, differs from them. She does not think an app is an ‘overrated idea’.

Bhavna Lalchandani, Director of CheersOye!, believes that it certainly depends on the need of the business as well as the needs driven by consumer behaviour.

“An app may be needed if the behaviour calls for action that a user needs to perform ‘On the Go’ or in case of frequent repeated usage. If the task is focused on achieving the outcome as soon as possible with minimal touch points, then apps become essential, vis-a-vis if the outcome is not well defined and more exploratory in nature with multiple touch points, in such cases, other channels like mobile friendly sites are relevant,” Bhavna Lalchandani says.

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Bhavna says, “Since today’s nature of business is complex and caters to multiple needs answering a variety of behaviours, certainly one channel may not suffice for the need but the wise call here would be to evaluate what aspects to bring in the web channel and what features would be good candidates for the app channel, taking cues from various need-based outcomes.”

An app should be only used where there’s connectivity and app download capabilities. Does that leave much of India outside of the app users?

Shantala elaborates on this, “YES! But today we see good network coverage almost across the country. But technical capability is the key.. But then we have Whatsapp’s success story which so many people across the spectrum are using. So if the app is good and relevant and used for day-to-day activity, people don’t mind asking for help from others to get it downloaded and use it. But it should be critical enough for them to use it! If you have something very simple and can bring in a lot of benefits, people will use it! But at the end of the day, how many apps can one have? More than network, mobile memory will play a major role!”

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Shikha, on the other hand, said that service delivery is of utmost ​importance.

But Bhavna says, “Unless mobile connectivity becomes much more stable, app usage for large transactions may be limited in India. There are other problems, too, such as phone memory. While smartphone penetration is high, many of the phones are at the low end of the price and features spectrum. Typically, the minimum internal phone memory allows only five to seven apps beyond the preloaded apps that come with an Android device.”

“The usual challenge of getting noticed and heard in a crowded market is even more exacerbated in the app world. Users will tend to uninstall apps they don’t use frequently. Typically, an average user in India installs about 18 to 20 apps at any point and engages with only five to six on a regular basis. Ensuring downloads, stickiness and regular engagement with the app is a huge challenge. Hence I believe that for better consumer reach, the hybrid approach is better,” says Bhavna.

If you have something very simple and can bring in lot of benefits, people will use it – Shantala Bhat

Interestingly, Bhawna shares the fact that apps are increasingly becoming very popular even in tier 1 and 2 towns. She says, “What is integral to this trend is the fact that app makers have become mindful of keeping the applications’ “data light”, so it does not take up as much bandwidth to use as many apps traditionally did. Connectivity has also become a lot more accessible now with data costs reducing considerably.”

Is simplicity of technology the key driver of people technology privileges? A very fancy app does not serve the purpose if it does not allow users/buyers to conclude what they came there for…

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While Shikha supports this, Shantala explains, “Simplicity is the key everywhere! The first rule is — will you use this app if you are the customer? If yes, will you use this particular feature.. what will be your own requirement .. If one can answer this positively, half of the problem is solved.”

Bhavna, on the other hand, definitely gives a thumbs-up to the simplicity of technology. According to her, “It focuses on the need and outcome of the consumer behaviour on priority, rather than having a fancy app which confuses the user and does not solve the main problem of the customer. A simple and elegant app which handholds the customer and enhances the user experience holds a higher advantage and is something that consumers can avail as a true privilege. An app needs to be more engaging and interactive vis-a-vis a mobile site which can be more informative.” While Bhawna agrees that an app should be made to satisfy the needs of the target customers and not just the product managers.

A statistic says that India has become the world’s fourth largest mobile app economy. The amount of time spent on apps in the first quarter of 2016 has increased more than two times as compared to that in the first quarter of 2014. 

Quoting Shantala here — “All I wish is – this shouldn’t be another dotcom burst! If you have customers using it — definitely go for it! India is a huge market by sheer population number itself! No surprise if it’s one of the biggest markets. As a company, I would be measuring the transactions using an app rather than just the number of downloads!”

Typically, an average user in India instals about 18 to 20 apps at any point and engages with only five to six on a regular basis – Bhavna Lalchandani

On the other hand, Shikha was amused to see the number. She said, “This is an interesting stat. The number of apps might have increased but the rate of app uninstall is also very high. User stickiness to an app is very very low. In such a scenario, the effort has to be on service quality and not app quality.”

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Bhawna is optimistic that with connectivity becoming even more affordable and accessible across India, this number will only continue to grow. “The advent of demonetisation has also pushed us further into a virtually charged landscape which has also contributed to this trend,” she says.

Bhavna Lalchandani thinks that the most important thing that is now driving the app economy here is the amount of time spent by the users on the mobile app and not the revenue or the number of downloads. “People have this perception in India `that users spend more time on browsers. That is not true. Data shows that the percentage of time spent on apps in India is the same as around the world, at 93% (the remaining 7% comes from mobile browsers).  With the introduction of affordable smartphones and better infrastructure supporting mobile , and given India’s population, the growth here is expected to be significant,” she explains.

Is India a better market for mobile-friendly websites rather than an app driven approach?

“Websites don’t use mobile memory.. If it’s just information, web is really sufficient! If it’s more of user interaction, use of other mobile features etc, then an app is worth it!” Shantala says.

While Shikha​ totally agrees, she says, “If the purpose can be solved by mobile websites and also Webview app, no point spending time, energy and money on native apps. First mobile websites can be tested with users and in due course of time once traction is there and product is solving user’s problem, startups can migrate to native app.”

Connectivity has also become a lot more accessible now with data costs reducing considerably – Bhawna Agarwal

Bhavna shares that again it depends more on the business needs and the consumer behaviour or the desired outcome. “For the casual blogger, the mobile website wins. For a company like Instagram, the mobile app wins. For many businesses, the winner is a combination of both. A two-pronged mobile strategy can leverage both a mobile site and an app for maximum distribution of your content,” she added.

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Further, she gave us examples of an online store. “Why not let visitors purchase through your website, as well as an app? Restaurants can offer updated menus, directions, and online ordering. Magazines can send push notifications when new articles are published. App-based solutions are valuable only for purchases or transactions made on the go. Mobile websites are gaining significance, too, but apps are more critical as they offer personalization and help companies understand consumers better; communicate with them more frequently; and target them with relevant products based on their browsing history,” Bhavna explained properly.

App is just a delivery method. If a service delivery is done with quality and low cost in any other medium, app is not needed. – Shikha Suman

She adds on, “In India, limited real estate on low-end smartphone devices leads many users to uninstal the app after a transaction or to make room for messaging or other apps they use more frequently. However, as app-commerce gets bigger, mobile technology is getting better in India. Virtual reality, mobile wallets and geo-tracking are becoming ubiquitous as are multilingual content and lightweight apps. It is no longer a question of whether e-commerce will transform into m-commerce or app-commerce, but how soon is the question. For now, being present wherever the customer is and offering a better user experience is more relevant to a business through a hybrid approach rather than taking only the app-based approach.”

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In a way, Bhawna believes that mobile-friendly websites and an app driven approach are not mutually exclusive, and one needs to have a clear focus for both rather than taking a singular approach.

Well, you heard the ladies who excel in tech. What’s your take? Tell us in the comments section below.

Also read: Six stellar women on what it takes to startup, and sustain!

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