Somil Gupta, CEO, Planet41 Mobi-Venture

Shilpa Shanbhag
shilpas@cybermedia.co.in

Development of applications for telecom companies – how would you describe this market?
Development of applications is not just limited to telecom companies and mobile phones at Planet41. The company develops mobile and web applications for enterprise and consumer markets as well. The market for applications is huge worldwide, now the computing is on consumer’s finger tips with the introduction of smart devices like smartphones, tablets, smart TVs etc. Every consumer has some common and some unique needs. With innovations in mobile computing technologies by hardware manufactures it makes it easier for application development companies like us to understand what is required by consumers, understand their needs and then convert these requirements into an easy to use application.
More smart devices are getting introduced in the market every day and the need and demand for such devices is constantly increasing. About three years back, the penetration of smartphones in India was less than 2%, which has increased to roughly 7-8%. The penetration curve is rapidly increasing. Hardware manufacturers are now focuses on making more smart devices for example, LG has stopped manufacturing featured phones. Smarter device usage will bring in the need for more applications thus I see this to be a very large market in future.

As a company that commenced with niche offerings, how would you describe the challenges faced?
We try to ensure that the offerings that we make to companies are unique in every way. But then mobile companies always worry that the penetration of smart devices in India is not good, more over only 40-50% of the smart device users in India today use their devices for computing and run applications on it. Others just use them for basic telephony like calls and sms. There is a challenge today on consumption of data enabled application on mobile devices, but the gap is reducing. Even the telecom operators are trying their best to educate and convert their customer to start using data on their mobile devices. Once the data consumption increases the usability of our products will grow accordingly. India is a large consumer base, even 2% means a few crores of consumers. So I don’t see much of a challenge in our future path.

How would you describe the journey for planet 41 Mobi-Venture and the plans chalked out for the company?
Like most of the start-ups, Planet41 started with high energy and aspirations but then faced very difficult time. The company required funds to develop unique products for future but not all investors buy future concepts and they always have “if, this would do well?” Then company thought 3G would bring in the change on consumer mind set and experience and the demand for data enabled applications and services would increase. So the company invested heavily on its platforms and technologies by taking loans from the banks but the 3G take off didn’t happen as expected. Again a big hit on company growth curve.

But now the company is doing great with its offerings to the telecom operators and its consumers. Our company products are always been looked with WOW factor when we pitch it to our clients. We have many Telecoms and direct to consumer planned application and product launches schedules over next 18 months. I’m sure our application consumers would also go “Wow this is what I’ve always wanted”, once they experience the products.

With increased mobile penetration compared to PC penetration, what is the opportunity that you see for your company?
The company is focused on developing platform agnostic applications. Our applications run on any smart device as well as PC. It looks like mobile penetration is increasing as compared to PC but the truth is because of the innovations done by the hardware manufacturers your PCs are getting smaller and now they fit into your mobile device. So doesn’t matter which platform penetration increases its always in favor to us.

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