In the business of apps

In the business of apps

The world is going mobile! India alone has nearly 85 crore mobile connections. New applications are driving the usage and growth of mobiles! And new words like ‘appification’, ‘appnomy’ have found their way into the dictionary. Here are the basics on starting a mobile apps venture

What does it take? To create an app, you need to have an idea. It can be based on customer need. For example, is there a way in which phone books can be improved to give more relevant information about your friends and family?

Understanding distribution: Apps can be downloaded using app stores like Ovi. Start-ups can also tie up with operators like Vodafone and share revenues generated from customers. Content aggregators like Onward Mobility also play a part in bringing apps to customers via their extensive relationships. Original equipment manufacturers (example Nokia and Micromax) can also be tied up for pre-embedding your apps with their handsets. Companies like Onward Mobility sell apps via a retail channel of shopkeepers.

Technology options: There are various platforms to develop apps, including Android, Symbian/QT, J2ME, Bada, Windows etc. Each has got its advantages and disadvantages which could include ease of learning the programming languages, availability of hardware/software support for testing apps, or porting from one to another platform. It is also important that the team has basic understanding of programming languages like Java, C and C++.

Mass or Class? As a start-up, you need to focus — do you want to build a mass app or a class app — on what kind of consumers you are targeting. Some companies build an app a day, while others take years to build it, to which consumers and investors react well. For example, Apalya Technologies, Hyderabad, has built an app that allows you to watch live TV on your mobile itself!

Marketing strategy: Digital media like internet (Google, Facebook) and other media like SMS marketing are good platforms. PR can also generate good leads — journalists like to write about a good app.

Mobile Developer Forums are also a good way to connect and spread the word. Also, apps can be copyrighted, so don’t worry about

app-theft! n

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Venture online

With more and more Indians having access to computers and internet, there are increasing opportunities to start an internet venture. While the costs of starting have come down, it is important to keep some of the basics in mind before plunging into internet entrepreneurship.

1. Who is my customer? There are over 10 crore Indians who have access to internet, but not all of them are your customers. It becomes important to identify, classify and focus on your customers and accordingly model your business around it. The design of your website, language and usability will be determined by your target group. Try to visualise how your customers will use your website and what problem will it solve for them.

2. What is the revenue model? Most common assumption in starting a website business is that you will start earning advertising money as soon as your website is up. However, attracting advertisers requires you to attract customers first — and that is what you should work for from the start. Revenue model can include product sales (for example Flipkart), lead generation (Ixigo), merchandising (Myntra), listing fees (JustDial) etc.

3. Create it! It takes Rs 500-1,000 approximately to buy the website name and another Rs 500-1,000 approx to buy a hosting space for your website. Advance packages may vary and you can also use cloud computing to keep your capital costs low in the beginning. Depending on the complexity of business, number of users and transactions per user, you can decide upon the technology to use (ranging from .net, Java, PHP, mySQL etc).

4. Sell it! Once the first usable version of your website is up (also known as beta version), you can start sharing with potential customers and increasing your site visits. Techniques like search engine optimisation (so your business can be found on Google), link-building and directory submissions can further enhance the visibility. Tools like Google Analytics can also give you insights on what is working and what is not. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can also be used for spreading the word.

But remember, there is no advertising as powerful as a satisfied customer who will refer you — so build brand ambassadors out of your customers.

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Is engineering degree enough for entrepreneurship?

As a part of our business plan workshops for students, we come across several queries from young minds across the country – and the most common across engineering colleges is that whether as engineers, they can be good entrepreneurs. While there are several choices a fresh engineer has after the degree, including job, MBA, IAS or PHD etc. I believe nothing matches doing your own business!

So let us look at the basic query itself
what is entrepreneurship? It is about identifying a problem of a customer, solving it using your engineering brain and delivering it to customers in a profitable manner. Any business has 2 aspects to it and none can be compromised – 1st is CREATE and 2nd is SELL! As engineers, creating things comes naturally or as a part of the curriculum and training. Most engineers are well-versed to think in 3 dimensions, visualize situations, optimize resources and handle complexities. Its only when the selling part comes that they lack confidence. However, in my view,
selling is an art that comes with practice. Is this too hard to learn? I do not think so, but let me suggest what engineers can do to improve these skills:

1. Join a startup for internship

Startups have a culture of their own. A small team means higher responsibilities for each individual, and space is given to all to take decisions and make a difference to the end product in a short duration of 2-3 months. This maybe tough in a large corporation, where interns are relegated to insignificant roles like online surveys, data collection or making ppts etc. and it takes 2-3 months just to get project approvals.

2. Take up campus ambassador roles

Nowadays, large and small companies appoint campus ambassadors to connect with student communities and spread awareness about their brands. You can join such program, which will give you insights right in college days to explore business aspects like marketing, products, event management etc. and also help you network with other college students across the country.

3. Attend events of interest outside college

There are various forums on entrepreneurship, marketing, finance etc. which allow free entry to students. The positive experiences and meeting people at these forums can really help you shape your ideas.

4. Take part in business plan competitions

Business plan competitions are a good way to organize your thoughts, make your plans and take a feedback from experts, mentors and judges. It also allows you to travel, be on your own and make new friends outside your college. Who knows you may find your business partner somewhere!

5. Start your own business

While it is tough to manage studies and business at the same time, you can start something in a team of 3-5 and manage the show. For example, a website or mobile recharge business does not take much to start, but it can give you real experiences in life. What sounds better on a resume – “made a library management software in foxpro, C etc.” or “Started my own company and sold to millions of customers”!

So go out and make yourself, your family and your nation proud – maybe you could be the next Narayana Murthy and make the next Infosys!

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