Domestic apps market gradually gains foothold (The Himalayan Times)

Are you interested in going on a trek in the Annapurna region? Do you have a smartphone? If yes, download TG (Trek Guide) app. This free app not only provides a detailed map of the region but also information on hotels, restaurants, health posts and check points.

If you have time download Virtual Reality as well, an app using which you can virtually decorate your home. All you need to do is drag the pictures of the furniture and other interior décor items and put them in the virtual room on your screen.

These are just two examples of apps that have hit Nepal’s nascent app market which started growing only a few years ago.

“Although Nepal started developing apps in the later part of the last decade, rapid development started taking place only after mid-2012,” said director of operations of Parakhi — a hotel reservation site which has also created an app — Nirmal Thapa.

Since then the number of apps in circulation in Nepal has reached around 50.

Some of these apps include Phototype, Loadshedding, Batti Gayo, Picovico, Nepali Patro, Nepali Sutra, NepalKhabar, nLocate and eSewa. Batti Gayo might be one of the game openers.

“The use of apps is turning into a fashion here with the rise in the number of young mobile phone users. This is an encouraging factor for most of the app developers,” said CEO of Supreme IT Solutions Dhruba Raj Joshi who created the Virtual Reality app.

Currently, there are around 800 app developers in Kathmandu. But with apps gaining popularity, more and more developers are joining the bandwagon.

“Many IT companies are focusing on developing apps because the business has the potential of providing good returns with very little investment,” said the chief executive of Fonepay Asgar Ali. If you invest Rs 100, you are likely to get a return of Rs 200 to Rs 300 or more in a very short period of time, provided your app creates a sizeable customer base, added Ali.

“Because of this we are likely to see the engagement of more firms in app development,” pointed out chief executive officer of Young Innovations Bibhushan Bista.

One reason why apps are becoming popular is the rapid increase in the number of mobile phone users. Today, mobile phone penetration has reached 70.04 per cent of the population from 15.72 per cent five years ago. It is believed that around 20 per cent of Nepali mobile phone users are using a smartphone, which translates to at least 3.7 million users.

This is quite a big market for app developers, as most of these smartphone carriers are potential app users. Yet, the use of apps is still not widespread as many smartphone users do not have internet access due to relatively costly data packages.

Despite this, companies like Nepways, the developer of nLocate, one of the most famous Nepali apps which provides information on restaurants and banks, among others, located in the vicinity, are upbeat. “We have been seeing around 300 downloads of our app — nLocate — per day since its launch in January. And our website is visited by 8,100 people every day,” said a team leader at Nepways Deepen Chapagain. “This is quite a remarkable feat.”

Other app developers are also seeing their subscriber base jump in a relatively short period of time. NepalKhabar, an app using which you can read news published in Nepal’s major online portals, is seeing 100 downloads per day. Then there are apps like eSewa, an online payment gateway, and Fonepay, using which people can transfer money from one bank account to another, which have seen their subscriber base reach 0.2 million people and 32 clients, respectively.

“The response so far is satisfactory. We know there is a big market as there are 15 million active mobile phone users in the country. All we need to do is generate awareness among people and make more efforts to market our product,” said Fonepay’s Ali.

Published on The Himalayan Times on August 10, 2013.


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