Indus OS is a home grown mobile operating system built on the Android like Cyanogen and MIUI. But the major difference compared to other OSes in the market is that it is available in 12 Indian languages, which makes it easy to use for people who have problems with using English as the language for using their mobile phones. In this post, we will discuss about the Operating System (OS), how did it start and reach its pinnacle to claim the second position in the mobile Operating System space in India.
Launch, Vision and Mission
Indus OS was incorporated in 2014 under the name Firstouch. They took the nation to a storm with their patented keyboard which proved to be the cornerstone feature of the OS.
It was founded by three IIT Bombay alumni, namely Rakesh Deshmukh (CEO of Indus OS), Akash Dongre (COO) and Sudhir B (CTO).
Rakesh Deshmukh, has a Bachelors degree from IIT Bombay always had an entrepreneurial aspiration which has been a pushing force to push the company to bigger heights.
Akash Dongre, has a Bachelors degree from IIT Bombay, handles product development to build a customized Android OS into a target-oriented Indus OS for its consumers.
Sudhir B, has a Bachelors degree from IIT Bombay in Electronics, a technology fanatic who believes in developing technology for user to use the product with simplicity.
Their main vision and mission is to deliver to the real needs of the consumers in emerging markets like India. India is a nation which has various languages, despite the official Hindi and English languages are spoken by 10% population in India. Their mission is to give the advantage of the internet and digital world to all, irrespective of economic, social, regional and linguistic properties, mostly governed by languages in India to the next billion people for whom English isn’t their first language of choice. The founder’s brainy thinking brought out the World’s first regional Smartphone OS.
How did it start
In May 2014, the company took entire India by storm by launching a regional language 48 key based patented keyboard available in 12 Indian languages.
You may say what’s as great with that as many OEMs are providing language based keyboard, so let me clear your myth. There are features which will clear your myth
- Auto-correction mode in all languages, including in Kannada, Tamil, etc… which have a lot of matras and combinations for one word (2, 00,000 words in 12 languages).
- Unlike vowels and consonants in English, matras are a vital part of any Indian language. With over 12-16 matras in every language, giving a prediction for those matras is a task.
- It is the only virtual keyboard for mobiles and tablets which give an experience of right to left typing and reading comfort for the users using Urdu as their preferred language.
- The swipe is the major feature of the keyboard. If you type something in saying Hindi, if you swipe to the left it transliterates the statement in English and swipe to the right, it translates the statement into English.
Language is the cornerstone of the OS
All Operating Systems boast that India is their major market as it is the largest Smartphone market in the world. Like Apple due to its technical innovation is way ahead of all in the United States and Europe (due to affordability), it is a distant dream for many nations like China and India.
But as we know that China has everything on its own, like home grown search engine (Baidu), social network (Weibo), etc… Xiaomi MIUI has taken the baton of customizing Android OS for its native users and now popular in other emerging markets too. Indus OS is expected to do the same in India, thanks to its cornerstone feature of the OS being language.
Despite efforts of Google, Apple and Xiaomi they aren’t able to tap the language based population in India. Secondly, most of the population in India isn’t happy with the new technology firstly due to language being English and they are happy with the cell phones with the hard green and red keys on the cell phones.
Top companies like Google and Facebook have launched language based apps of their portals to cater population from tier III and IV cities, rural areas but they aren’t enough to serve the purpose when the entire world of Internet is in English. Recently Wikipedia put a stall in a fair in West Bengal to cater writers in Bengali on their portal which is the world’s largest encyclopedia for information on every niche topic in this universe.
Do you know why they are called cell phones; this is because they work like a clock with a calling and messaging feature and nothing more. Secondly, OEMs find it easy to manufacture these phones in native languages as they have to just alter some options in the preferred language which is as easy as using Google translate. If you type “Games in Kannada” in Google search, it will give its output something as in the image below.
This leaves no room for development as the language bounded population, despite the wanting isn’t able to access the new technology. With Indus OS, the company wants to create an Operating System for all, i.e. A phone which fills the gap between a Smartphone and a cell phone which is done by keeping essentials of a cell phone with the technology of a Smartphone.
The company under the name of Firstouch tied up with Micromax to launch its first full-fledged phone with the Indus OS on May 2015 (not the prototype). It was priced in the 10-15k range with 10 regional language support.
To move higher with its ambitions, has tied up with a local vendor Elite to manufacture phones with their OS. Today they have 35-odd Smart phones which sport the Indus OS.
The crux of any Operating System is the App Store. Introduced by Apple in 2008, most OSes have succeeded or failed based on their App Stores.
Indus OS could adopt Google Play Store on their Operating System to get an initial boost to their language based ecosystem. But they chose the tough route by thinking of the end-users.
Major points why App Bazaar came into existence
- Millions of Apps on the Google Play Store but very few in Indian languages.
- They demand credit/debit cards for payment of apps which the end-user would like to purchase. Due to low penetrations of the banking system in India, a savings bank account is still a dream.
- Most of the App Stores demand an Email Sign Up on their platform through which all the dealings from the phone in the App Store are done. But most of the Indian population doesn’t have an Email ID neither have they tried sending an email as the Smart phone would be their first introduction to the internet.
The App bazaar has 15,000 apps on its store with major publishers and top apps in the offering. It has a carrier billing method for purchasing paid apps on the store; no sign-up is necessary for the store to access the apps and that too in regional languages.
Secondly, the OS isn’t dominating that a person must only use App Bazaar. They can install Google Play Store on their phones as third party software for the today’s youth who want more apps with a little English supported by the mother tongue.
The platform received Series ‘A’ funding led by the Omidyar Network worth $5 million. While we don’t know how many shares have been shelled out for the funding, but it has helped them fuel their ambitions to develop the Operating System with full effort.
Omidyar Network was established in the year 2004 by eBay’s founder Pierre Omidyar to help and create an impact as an investor in a startup. The company believes that each and every person has the power to create a difference which must be fuelled by people at Omidyar Network.
In total there are a number of angel investors in Indus OS
|Omidyar Network||Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay|
|Temasek Holding||Investment Company owned by Government of Singapore|
|Pranay Chulet||Founder of Quikr|
|Amit Gupta||Founder of InMobi|
|Kunal Bahl||Founder of Snapdeal|
What is Indus OS?
Why this straight off, you may be considering? This is because, now after a brief idea, my point will be better understood. Many people asked me queries about the OS so I decided to answer it through a blog post.
Indus OS is the World’s first regional Smartphone Operating System created to cater the demands of the next billion entering the Smartphone world who don’t want to have English as their preferred language of the interface. In India, there are about 100 million people who know English but around 200 million people use a Smartphone. The trouble is with these 100 million people as they find it difficult to use any other feature than Facebook and Whatsapp, thereby reducing their exposure to the world of internet.
We all know that Android OS has launchers by which you can make your phone screens sometimes look like an iPhone. Adding to it, we can even change the default OEM keyboard to the keyboard of our choice. This might get you a question that how Indus is an OS.
Indus OS is created over Android. Like if we assume Android to the brown bread (because white bread is a cell phone, just kidding) Indus OS is like the butter over the bread. To make this a complete OS different from Android OS, keeping the language as its cornerstone feature it has created the app store, a number pad for dialing, internet browsing through a browser anything and everything in one regional language of your choice.
So to all naysayers who say that Indus OS is just a launcher, one point I would say. When we Indians can accept Xiaomi’s MIUI, Cynaogen OS as an Operating System despite being built on Android OS, then why do we insult our fellow Indians who are putting their full effort to bring about an Operating System to help the major population of India which no other company has thought about as per I know. An OS is completely different from the other when it gives the end-user a simple interface to use rather than a complicated one. A product made by the tech geeks, Government of India (DeitY), developers, OEMs, people like me who come forward to promote the product with complete dedication to give the world a Smartphone loved by all.
We must dedicate this OS to all fellow Indians who use, promote it; manufacture it and lastly, who give the final touch to the OS. It has the capability to become an undisputed leader in indigenous-language technology to benefit mankind. Big companies speak about the last mile reach of the internet to the first-time internet users must try to help them with something the Indus OS has come up with. I was introduced to the internet in 2002, which is way before today when a 24-year old is attempting to realize how the internet works. When I joined the internet world, there wasn’t any social network for my age group (unlike today when people meet internet with a social network), our fire of knowledge is high as we know the real internet. This is what we want our Indian population to know, so Indus OS is trying their best for every individual to understand what the internet is, not through social network but by researching, reading and procuring knowledge in them to become a better individual.
Text to Speech
The company has tied up with the Government of India (DeitY:- Department of Electronics and Information Technology) in late 2015 to develop a text to speech software in 12 different regional languages in India.
Leaving behind the naysayers, the company has achieved phenomenal success within no time in the Industry.
According to the recent Counterpoint research along with the Economic Times in 2016, with over 24.8 million phones being activated in India in Q1, the Indus OS system was present in 1.4 million phones pushing it to the number two spot with a 5.6% market share behind Android OS with an 83.8% market share.
You may say what so great about it. It has displaced the world top tech companies like Apple (iOS) which has 2.5% market share at Number 5 and Microsoft (Windows Phone) at Number 7 with a market share of 0.3%.
People who say that Indus OS is a launcher, here’s something for you too. The customized Android OS space has MIUI with 4.1% market share and Cynaogen clocked 2.8% market share, thereby making the Indus OS as the best customized Android OS in India.
Their major target was sub $40 phones. India, being a price sensitive country and phone prices dropping below $40 in India, people did not get the feeling of using a Smartphone due to English as the main language. Their success point lies here as these price-range customers require language support given by the Indus OS. Addition to that hassle-free carrier billing, no sign-up method, patented keyboard, App Bazaar, etc… acted as the toppings in a tasty pizza.
After a grand success of the Operating System in India and funding from angel investors, the company now is thinking about its future plans for the growth of the company as a leading software vendor.
They recently roped Bangladesh as their foreign conquest to introduce their OS in phones in the country. Indian Subcontinent is divided by borders, but united by language. As a Bengali, Urdu and Hindi are being major languages they found it easy to expand the OS’s influence in cricket-fanatic nation.
They are planning to improve the software’s capabilities and features, such that it can be introduced in some high-end phones using the Android ROM facility. In India, some businessmen play in crores, but use feature phones due to language problem. If a high end phone with good camera and screen is introduced to them, it is a benefit for the company as they get new money-spending customers profiting the company in future.
One in six devices in 2017; 100 million devices in 2018 and 300 million devices by 2022 is the company’s main motto officially. Unofficially we may see the OS reach these feats quicker than the company’s prediction.
They may next target some other nation like Pakistan, Nepal or Bhutan with their OS on their international expansion drive thanks to the same language in most of these nations.
I wish Indus OS, all the best for their future prospects and become a leading software vendor. Hope you liked my post on the World’s first regional Smartphone Operating System.
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