Bharti Airtel Q&A: serving the demanding Indian consumer market - Mobile World Live

Bharti Airtel Q&A: serving the demanding Indian consumer market

13 JAN 2011

Bharti Airtel is the biggest mobile operator in India, serving more than 150 million subscribers in the competitive, and price-sensitive, market. Airtel launched its App Central store in February 2010, putting it ahead of rival stores from Reliance (Reliance App Store) Vodafone Essar (Vodafone App Store) and Aircel (Pocket Apps). The store has also picked-up significant momentum; before the end of last year it had already passed the 30 million download mark, with more than 200,000 downloads taking place per day.

When was the app store launched?
The Airtel mobile application store App Central was launched on 10th Feb 2010.

How many apps were available at launch, and how many devices supported the store at launch?
At launch there were 1,250 apps available across 550+ devices.

How many apps are now available, and how many devices support the store?
There are currently 100,000 apps available across 980+ devices.

What sort of devices support the app store (eg smartphones, feature phones or basic phones)?
App Central is an open-platform, third-party marketplace and supports Java, Symbian, RIM, Android & Windows Mobile operating systems. The devices are spread across the feature phone and smartphone categories. Our vision is to be able to provide mobile apps to any device that comes onto our network right from the time the SIM is inserted.

How many app downloads has the store had? How does this compare to rival Indian operator app stores?
The App Central store currently clocks around 200,000 downloads a day and has seen over 30 million downloads to date at an average of over 1 download/second. We have been the pioneers of the operator app store in India and others such as Reliance (Reliance App Store), Vodafone (Vodafone App Store) & Aircel (Pocket Apps) have followed.

What is the revenue split for developers?
While there are benchmarks that have been set for various categories of applications, we are not following a fixed revenue share model. Revenue share is decided based on the potential of the application in terms of customer experience and value generated.

How successful has the store been compared to your original expectations?
We always believed that mobile applications was an exciting space for us to be in. Our first foray into mobile applications through App Central has been very satisfying thus far with us taking a leadership position in the operator driven mobile application store space.

How do users pay for the apps? Do you support operator billing (if not, will you in the future)?
Customers on our App Central store do not need credit cards to make purchases. A single click is all it takes to buy apps & get unlimited access to favorite applications. The price of the app is automatically added to the mobile bill or deducted from the available talk-time in the account.

Why is India a good market to launch app stores in?
India is a market where the devices are predominantly feature phones. However, our customers expect the very same quality and experience which a smartphone typically has. Applications help bridge this gap between feature phones and smartphones, and as we have seen from the customer response to App Central there was a huge pent-up demand for mobile applications that we have been able to tap into.

What are the challenges of launching app stores in India?
The challenge is to ensure that we continue to support newer operating systems, and offer devices that come on to our network and allow our customers to enjoy the App Central store right from the time they insert the SIM for the first time.

Another challenge is that currently Indian developers are building applications for the global markets due to the lack of a go-to-market channel in India, which is what our App Central store has provided to them. Through App Central, we have kick started the creation of a compelling ecosystem for our customers, developers and Indian brands / businesses.

What are your future plans for the store, in terms of download targets, usage and growth? Will you support in-app advertising?
The store is continuously evolving on all dimensions including increased usage, downloads, changes in the user experience amongst others. We already support in-app advertising, micro-billing through daily, weekly, monthly subscriptions. 

Will you integrate your store into the Wholesale Applications Community, of which you are a supporter? If so, when and how?
We have already pledged our support to the Wholesale Applications Community and are working towards integrating our highly successful App Central store and the developer community powering the same.

What lessons could operators outside of India learn from your success?
Making the storefront contextually relevant to the customer is a critical requirement if an operator aims to succeed in this space. With our diverse market, we have also realised that localised and regional specific applications are something that our customers look forward to from us. Pricing too is critical, and it works best to lower the barriers and get more customers to experience the application phenomenon for themselves.

Furthermore, customers already have a wide choice of stores and will seek the ones that make it easy for them to discover applications they are interested in and pay for them when they have to.

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