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Interview with Ebrahim Popat, Country Manager, 9Apps

May 02, 2017

Interview with Ebrahim Popat, Country Ma...

In an interview with tele.net magazine, Ebrahim Popat, country manager, 9Apps talks about the key trends in the Indian gaming market, the company's key offerings and the outlook for the gaming industry....

How has the Indian gaming market evolved in the recent years? What are the key trends?

The Indian Gaming market has been in a major transformation mode with fresh perspective and consumers aggressively investing into online, video, mobile games and apps. Current economic growth has resulted in a society that is embracing digital content and entertainment like never before, enabled by the explosive growth of smartphones and affordable wireless internet. Something that started as a humble beginning (a pre-installed game called ‘Snake’ on Nokia phones) has now evolved into a major industry.

According to App Annie-NASSCOM report, globally, games have been the key driver of mobile app growth. The interesting fact is that in 2016, 58 per cent growth of the global games comes from the Asia pacific region. In the second quarter of 2016, India ranked fifth globally in terms of game downloads and it is expected to surpass both Russia and Brazil in the coming years.

What has been the uptake of mobile platform for playing games? What are the growth drivers?

A smartphone has eliminated the exclusivity of a gaming console and bridged the gap between general public and high-end games. The Play Station and Nintendo have consistently reported a drop in sales over the last few quarters, losing out due to the popularity of smartphones and mobile games and this trend is likely to continue.

The launch of impressive operating software that supports complex games along with latest phone processors with increased capacity and power that are able to render graphics, audio and video for console quality games are some of the key factors driving the popularity of mobile games.

Our internal survey suggests that Indians majorly prefer exciting but simple games like car racing, cricket-related and action games.

What are 9Apps’ focus areas in the Indian market? What are your key offerings?

Our effort has been to provide quality content and services and promote localised and relevant applications and games in each country we operate in. Our homepage offers fresh content on a daily basis and we recommend apps based on your preferences and past choices. Our aim is not just to acquire more users but to engage with them deeply. 9Apps is optimised for local network conditions to guarantee a downloading experience to users even if they are in bad connection.

Where do you stand in terms of competition? What are your key differentiation areas?

9Apps is one of the most popular Android apps store with over 250 million monthly active users worldwide. As the world’s leading third-party app stores for Android apps and games, we see ourselves as a local application store in each of those countries. Apart from all the free applications available on Google Play, we provide local applications with more visibility, and offer better experience to local users with localised elements.

Recently, we entered the lucrative e-commerce space in India. 9Apps now offers multiple and exciting new features on its app for shopaholics, along with providing abundant android apps and games. We are the first app marketplace to offer these services to users. We offer comparative pricing where users can compare product prices from 8 different sellers – namely Paytm, Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal, Jabong, Askmebazar, Voonik and Shopclues on the app. The Discount Aggregation/Coupon Zone is a one-stop shop for all discounts and coupon codes available on 9Apps. Not just that - users also get a discount of value 50 INR for free when they sign up for Amazon via 9Apps. With these features, we aim to become a one-stop solution for our users and help them shop smart. 9Apps is now much more than just a tool to download apps and games.

We have also launched the InDev Program (worth $ 20 million) to help Indian independent and startup developers with specially designed solutions, especially in user acquisition and monetisation. The program aims to help over 100 independent and small developers over the next two years. Some of the highlights of the InDev Program include zero cost promotion support for developers, 100% revenue sharing with qualified developers for a certain period of time, professional support and consultancy in testing, localisation etc. InDev Program also sets up a Diamond Awards for qualified game and apps. As far as I know, there is no other local mobile platform in Indian market that can compare with us, in terms of user base and app distribution

What are some of your recent partnerships? How will these help in tapping into the growing gaming market?

In 2016, 9Apps tied up with Disney India’s Interactive Business to host and promote over 300 popular mobile games from its gaming catalogue. 9Apps now showcases games that include Inside Out Thought Bubbles, Mickey Cup, Minnie Cake Factory, Toy Story: Smash It!, Where’s My Water?, Lion King, Cricket World Cup Fever, ABCD2, Arjun: The Prince of Bali and many more.

Also, we forged a strategic partnership with Gameloft, a leading digital and social game publisher to distribute its most popular games in India. Through this partnership Gameloft users will be able to enjoy its top games like Asphalt Nitro, Real Football 2016, Dragon Mania Legends, Danger Dash and many more on the 9Apps platform.

We are glad that leaders in the gaming industry like Disney and Gameloft are choosing our platform to popularize their games. We are always on the lookout for partnerships that can add value to our users and, in turn, help companies reach out to our global user base of over 250 million monthly users and a strong India footprint.

What opportunities does the gaming market bring for Indian telecom operators? Are you working with any of them?

Mobile payment is a big issue for Indian users. 9Apps has tied up with telecom players so that all in-app purchases are added to your monthly mobile bill, even if users do not have a credit card.

What are the challenges faced by the digital content developers in India?

While the Indian app market is on a high-growth trajectory, it continues to face lot of difficulties, including connectivity, local online payment issues and lack of effective promotional channels. Effective addressal to these issues will attract more talent to the sector. The app development industry has undergone rapid expansion and is flush with talent in India. What is missing is the right platform for these developers to showcase their talent, get exposure for their apps and connect with fellow developers. In a nutshell, the industry is fraught with the following challenges:

o Network with slow connection

o Budget phones with limited capacity

o User acquisition (competition with big brands and lack of local promotion channels)

o Monetisation

9Apps, as one of the most important products of UCWeb, is part of UC Open Platform - an ecosystem to help Indian mobile internet players acquire users and monetise traffic. 9Apps is committed to helping local developers with its data analysis, local mobile payment solution along with integrated promotion and branding opportunities

We have also announced the launch of9Apps Trends, India’s first comprehensive local app market monitoring service that provides app trends, data analysis and an in-depth market report. The monitoring tool will address the growing need for a comprehensive app industry analysis and help local app developers and distributors. 9Apps Trends is a public web facility with free access to all.

Going forward, what is your outlook for the gaming industry? What are your growth plans for the Indian market?

The Gaming Industry is in its evolving phase and we are committed to provide world class gaming experience to our users in upcoming years. Our effort has been to provide quality content and services and promote localised and relevant apps and games in each country we operate in. Our aim is not just to acquire more users but to engage with them deeply.

UCWeb, which includes UC Browser, UC Union and 9Apps, is taking several steps to increase its appeal amongst the user base by offering localized content and services, UC Cricket and UC News being one of the many. We also want to be a platform for more app serving content or experiences. Apart from our app store, 9Apps, which also resides in the browser apart from being a native App, there are inbuilt apps such as video and audio player as well.






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