Indus OS Raises $5M To Make Android Work For First-Time Smartphone Customers In India
If you’d like proof that Android is the working system of rising markets, look no additional than Indus OS. The firm, previously referred to as Firstouch, is tweaking the Google-run working system to the distinctive calls for and tradition of India. And it’s raised $5 million in recent funding to push on with its lofty goal of reaching one billion rising market customers.
This Collection A spherical was led by Omidyar Community, the “philanthroipic” enterprise capital agency began by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his spouse Pam, and it follows smaller investments from India-based mostly angel buyers.
In its bid to make Android pleasant to non-smartphone customers in rural India, Firstouch, as the corporate was recognized previous to immediately, locations vital concentrate on the consumer interface and language help, nevertheless it goes past that. The genesis of the corporate is that smartphone penetration has stagnated in India regardless of the price of a tool falling to under $30. Indus OS believes that one of many main issues is complexity, and it’s retooling Android accordingly to assist tons of of hundreds of thousands of Indians to get on-line by means of a smartphone.
The corporate, which stated it has spent greater than three years researching shopper attitudes to cellular units and potential know-how options, has various units in-market now because of a partnership with Indian telephone maker Micromax — which bundled its software program on chosen units final yr — however it’s aiming to do much more.
“We’re determining what we have to do to offer individuals with their first web gadget,” Rakesh Deshmukh, Indus OS CEO and one of many trio of IIT-Mumbai graduates who based the corporate, defined to TechCrunch in a telephone interview.
“The language choices [in India] are very restricted [and] there’s no firm creating options for these shoppers. It’s a massive market and large drawback,” he added.
Hindi and English are India’s official languages, however 22 others are formally acknowledged. The highest 4 options are estimated to be spoken by a minimum of 10 million individuals every. So it stands to cause that a gadget that simply caters to some of that choice goes to have a considerably restricted attraction throughout the entire of India.
Indus OS covers 12 languages proper now. The staff is working so as to add extra, however it has additionally accomplished a notable tie-in with Division of Digital and Info Know-how (DeitY) which can see it introduce textual content-to-speech know-how for regional languages, a function that can be baked into its working system.
Deshmukh stated he believes that, with the assistance of latest OEM companions within the $200 handset area that it targets, this DeitY partnership might increase the corporate’s attain to tier-two and tier-three cities and push Indus OS nearer to its aim of bringing 300 million Indian shoppers on-line over the subsequent 5 years.
Design is one other main aspect to what the corporate is creating. Extra particularly, it’s making an attempt to bridge the hole between the fashionable smartphone and the gamut of customization choices availavle, and the extra restricted however simple expertise of ‘dumb’ cellphones.
“Individuals don’t know the best way to function a smartphone and have very restricted understanding of know-how,” stated Deshmukh, citing a number of area surveys and periods with Indians in rural areas. “We need a easy interface to assist individuals shift from a function telephone to a smartphone simply. We discovered, for instance, that many are extra snug with arduous keys, and shade-coding reminiscent of inexperienced and pink for calls.”
Different tweaks aimed to bridging cultural and use case gaps embrace a nifty actual-time translation software which allows customers to easily swipe to translate textual content from one language into one other. The function works when each sending and receiving messages.
Then there’s the corporate’s app retailer — App Bazaar — which doesn’t require an e mail tackle or bank card to lively an account. Which may sound trivial in Western markets, nevertheless it’s a critical barrier in India and different elements of the rising world.
Proper now, App Bazaar has 15,000 apps — which is way fewer than the hundreds of thousands within the Google Play Retailer — however Deshmukh stated forty five of the highest one hundred are current and the corporate intends to inventory all one hundred (and extra) inside this yr.
The crucial a part of the corporate’s mission is partnerships as a result of, as a software program maker, it isn’t promoting hardware or working a shopper model. (Though it intends to be extra seen so that folks will decide Indus OS-powered units once they store for a telephone). Its software program is put in on 20 units from Micromax — which have racked up over two tens of millions gross sales these previous six months — nevertheless it intends to broaden out and minimize offers with no less than two extra companions — who pay to license the software program — and improve its group to twenty million units in market this yr.
It additionally working to extend its workforce of 70 to 200, with one venture on the horizon being an Android ROM. (It’s presently promoting for 9 roles, together with developer positions and a CFO, on its web site.) That ROM might be put in on different (costlier) Android units to allow the corporate to develop its userbase past entry-degree and price range units.
Then there’s worldwide enlargement, too.
Indus OS moved into Bangladesh final yr, and Deshmukh advised us that he’d like so as to add one other abroad market to that listing earlier than the top of 2016. He stated the corporate will spend a couple of months wanting into which enlargement vacation spot it’d hit subsequent.
Deshmukh is optimistic of the potential of a fuller worldwide rollout — maybe into Africa, Southeast Asia and past — as soon as Indus OS has the fundamentals of its platform nailed down and confirmed at scale in India. However, he added, such a transfer would require further fundraising and would occur additional down the road.