Finding the right app has always been difficult for most mobile users. To solve this problem Mumbai based company OnWard Mobility plans to sell applications and mobile value added services through brick and mortar (physical) shops.
Arun Menon, chief executive officer of OnWard Mobility, discussed his plans with The Mobile Indian during a long interaction. He said, “There are mainly two sets of problems associated with selling applications online. The first one is discoverability among the thousands of app, and that there is no human touch which can guide you with what is best for you. The second problem comes from the fact that India and most other developing markets are not really 3G markets yet. Even smartphone owners do not necessarily have data connectivity activated, so they can’t go online to buy these apps.”
He added, “And this is where we see an opportunity for our model. We have already started selling apps through 40 physical stores. We have people who guide users who can answer and address their problems. It gives a human touch to the applications’ business.”
“Most of the apps on the online stores are simply waste and most others are the same thing with a different name, we want to pick the best apps that really add value to people’s life and sell it through our channel. We will educate them about usability; address their problems. And I’m sure people are willing to pay for applications that add value,” Menon said.
OnWard Mobility has a target to add 500,000-800,000 (that is the current number of shops selling mobile vouchers and other related products) outlets to its retail network in the next six months. This, Arun says, is a huge task but since these retailers are already selling telecom products, it is easier to convince them to sell one more type of product.
The company has plans to sell games, applications, anti virus and services through these shops, which will be a 20:80 mix between OnWard Mobility and third party apps. He claims that a lot of developers are already very excited about the prospects and want to sell their apps through OnWard Mobility.
VAS services, Arun says, can add much more value than they currently offer and thus “we want to take it away from the mobile bill”.
For example, an education app with complete course material is of great value but it cannot be downloaded through an app store — as such apps are usually too big (around 2 GB).
“It does not make sense for VAS players to offer such services as they will have to sell it at Rs 25. In our model, as we have a direct reach to the consumers, we can sell it even at Rs 1,000, because we can help the user understand the value of it face to face. So we want to be in the space with apps and service that add value but also come at a fair price; currently, our average selling price is Rs 400,” explained Arun Menon.
A similar concept is also being worked out by PlanetM (the chain of music stores). OnWard Mobility has received an investment of Rs 18 crore as funding from Indo-US Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures, which they will use to expand into the tier I and tier II cities.
The company also plans to sell gadgets and applications together as a package: for example a health monitoring machine that uses the phone’s display and processing power. Or something like what Tata Sky sells, a small gadget that transforms the phone into a set top box remote.
Arun is hopeful that one day he will be able to sell a smartphone at a subsidised rate along with a suite of applications, paid in part by the cost of the application and by advertisements riding on top of the application.