In a world dominated by Android and iOS, it is indeed a big achievement that Indus OS, an India-based mobile OS is servicing the localized needs of first-time Indian internet users. Formerly known as Firstouch, the Indian mobile operating system has gained popularity, ranking above iOS and Windows and only behind Android.The operating system also has its own app market place called App Bazaar and is currently available in English and 12 Indian regional languages and has an active user base of over 7 million. Indus OS has partnered with the phone brands Micromax, Intex Technologies, Karbonn Mobiles, Celkon, Swipe, Elite and Trio Mobiles.
CXOToday caught up with Sudhir Bangarambandi, CTO & Co-Founder, Indus OS, at the sidelines of the AWS Summit held in Mumbai, who said that the success of the company depends on a strong technology backbone. He discussed various trends and challenges and how it plans to scale up.
CXOToday: How is the start-up ecosystem in India in recent times? What are the typical tech-related challenges that start-ups face in the country?
Sudhir Bangarambandi: The story of the start-up ecosystem in India is really engrossing. The Startup India initiative led by the Government to boost startups & entrepreneurship has been fruitful. It is encouraging to see that the startup innovation culture is not just limited to India’s Metro & Tier 1 cities. So much so that over 44% of the startups found in India are found in Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities. These startups have been founded across 419 districts of India and almost 45% of these startups have been founded by women entrepreneurs. It is truly a great time to be a part of a growth startup as the Indian startup ecosystem goes through an upward shift.
The Startup India initiative led by the Government to boost startups & entrepreneurship has been fruitful. Our vision is in line with Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi’s Digital India movement. Indus OS is set to launch the first ever Aadhaar Authenticated OS for the 1 billion people in India who have already enrolled for Aadhaar, truly making India digital. Aadhaar-based authentication in India last year has reached a record high of 936 million. I believe that we are not too far off in making Aadhaar as India’s Digital Identity for every online & offline transaction.
The biggest tech challenges we faced has primarily been that of talent. The operating system field being a pretty niche field, hardly any talented professionals are in India with expertise in the field. And thus we have had the challenge to identifying good quality individuals who could quickly learn up OS technologies and start contributing with minimal training.
CXOToday: What challenges Indus OS was facing before it decided to move to AWS cloud?
Sudhir Bangarambandi: Indus OS is a cloud first company and AWS has been our cloud partners since the launch of our first device in the market in May 2015. Indus OS currently has a user base of over 10 Million across 100+ smartphone models from popular smartphone brands such as Micromax, Intex, Karbonn, Gionee, itel, Celkon & Swipe. It is available in English & 23 Indian regional languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujrati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Urdu, Nepali, Bodo, Dogri, Sanskrit, Konkani, Maithili, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Manipuri, Kashmiri Arabic, Santili and English) spoken by more than 95% of the Indian population. In this year, our focus is to build on our existing smartphone brand partnerships and partner with new International smartphone brands to further increase our market footprint. We are proud to have AWS’s scalable infrastructure in our arsenal. It has helped us grow rapidly and achieve a user base of over 10 Million in India.
CXOToday: Please explain the rationale behind choosing AWS and the benefits on deploying AWS cloud? What kind of partnership do you expect from AWS in the future?
Sudhir Bangarambandi: As stated earlier Indus OS has always been cloud first. We have hosted all our applications on the AWS cloud since day zero. Being a start up we need the ability to scale up and down at will and ease since change pretty fast. AWS has been our preferred cloud partner of choice because it provides the insane scalability along with stability. Today we use a plethora of AWS services starting from the age old EC2 for compute & S3 for storage to more advanced services like Pinpoint, Kinesis, DynamoDB, Redshift etc. We would love to engage more with AWS going ahead. We keep trying out the new services that come out from AWS practically every month. Whatever suits we adopt that into our applications.
CXOToday: You aim to reach 100 million users by 2020. How do you plan to achieve that number with the help of tech innovation? Can you explain some of the other tech innovation within the organization?
Sudhir Bangarambandi: Having recently raised more investment we will be focusing on further development of the platform through product innovations and developer partnerships, and user acquisition through international OEM partnerships.
In terms of product development, we will continue to work on building the preferred smartphone platform for India in 24 languages. We will be especially focusing on expanding the Brand Accounts, giving the Indian users a new way to discover internet content and services. Ola was the first to launch a Brand Account on the Indus platform earlier this year and we have already partnered with many other leading internet services and content companies across various industry verticals.
Talking about user acquisition, we will be focusing on signing more partnerships with international/Chinese brands. Partnering with the Chinese brands was one of our top priorities this year, thus we opened an office in China last year to work towards this goal. Consequently, we signed our first international/Chinese brand partnership in November 2017 with itel Mobile, which is now India’s 2nd largest mobile brand by market share. Very recently we announced our partnership with Gionee our second international smartphone brand partner. Expanding on our existing product portfolio and partnering with international smartphone brand partners will help us realize our vision of reaching 100 Million users by 2020.
CXOToday: Technology and business roadmap in the next 12-18 months
Sudhir Bangarambandi: As mentioned earlier, we will be focusing on expanding the OS integrated Brand Accounts, giving the Indian users a new way to discover internet content and services. Brand Accounts on the Indus OS platform offer a new way for Indians to discover internet services and content without the need to download any apps. By integrating internet services within the OS, these Brand Accounts on the Indus OS platform aim to power the digital needs of users in a revolutionary contextual and seamless interface that is made to reduce battery and data consumption while making the experience intuitive. These Brand Accounts are integrated within the default system applications of the OS such as SMS/Messenger, Dialer and Homescreen/Launcher. With Brand Accounts on Indus OS, the user can avail India’s top services and can gain access to content via system applications such as Messaging & Call.
By creating a Brand Account on Indus OS, developers can garner new users by helping them discover services/content benefits via the native environment of a system application. Ola Cabs, India’s largest mobility provider, was the first to launch a Brand Account on the Indus OS Platform in August this year. Integrated at the OS level, Ola’s Brand Account on Indus OS enables new users to discover its benefits and existing users to increase engagement. These Brand Accounts also make Ola’s experience available in English and 12 regional languages (catering to ~95% of the Indian population) for millions of Indians across India (Ola’s app is only available in English). Indus OS aims to expand its Brand Account partners to over 100 over the next year and accelerate the adoption of internet services in India. We intend to become India’s default platform for content and services.