Blog The Growth of India’s App Market: Essential Insights for 2021

The Growth of India’s App Market: Essential Insights for 2021

India’s app market now leads the world in terms of installs and there are more than 28,456 Indian publishers on Google Play. As the market rapidly expands, it is important to stay up to speed with current trends and new developments that can inform your marketing strategy. Whether you already have an app available in India’s mobile market or you are launching in the country for the first time, this guide will give you essential insights for 2021.

What is the state of India’s app market? 3 things you need to know

India has become the fastest growing mobile market in recent years. Over 19 billion mobile apps were downloaded there in 2019, compared to just over six billion in 2016. India is a mobile-first market with 93% of all internet minutes spent via mobile. Below are three things you need to know to understand India’s growing mobile market.

1. India’s most popular mobile apps are becoming multi-purpose ‘super apps’

Companies with a large audience are diversifying their offering, replicating the success of ‘super-apps’ seen elsewhere in Asia. Examples of these apps, such as GoJek and Grab are offering users across South East Asia a wide range of features such as ride-hailing, food-delivery, payment systems, ecommerce and publishing and their business model is one that is catching on in the Indian market. For example, Truecaller – an app that enables its 140 million daily active users to screen calls from strangers and bots – plans to implement a credit loaning system. Users based in India can also use the app to send messages, record calls and complete payments.

This highlights the current trend of multi-purpose apps trying to broaden their audience and keep users engaged with their app for as long as possible. Speaking of this trend in the Indian mobile market, Ayanth Kolla, Founder and Partner of research firm Convergence Catalyst, says “This is similar to how cable networks such as Fox and Star have built various channels with a wide range of programming to create enough hooks for users to stick around … The agenda for these apps is to hold people’s attention and monopolize a user’s activities on their mobile devices.”

2. Mobile ad spend has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic

The majority of India’s digital ad spend was mobile-focused before the coronavirus pandemic, and this global event has acted as a catalyst for this trend. Between 45-55% of companies’ digital advertising budgets are spent on mobile, a figure that is projected to increase to more than 65% by 2022. According to Exchange4Media, ad budgets are investing heavily in rich media, social media marketing and paid search.

3. Mobile marketers are focusing on video advertising

A study by marketing and advertising specialist Warc shows that 45% of marketers in India plan to focus their budgets on video advertising on mobile devices. Moreover, the study found that location data is the biggest technology for marketers with 46% of respondents rating this as pivotal to their targeted advertising. This aligns with the global trend of increased video ads: 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, showing an 18% increase over last year.

What are the most popular apps in India’s mobile market?

It is important to know the most popular apps in your vertical and how their success compares to industry benchmarks. Here are the most popular apps in India’s mobile market for Android and iOS:

  • Whatsapp: India is by far Whatsapp’s biggest audience with 340 million users, followed by Brazil with 99 million users. The company has also introduced a payments market in both regions.
  • YouTube: The video sharing company has 265 million active users in India and is projected to have 342.3 million by the end of 2021 – accounting for 92.8% of digital video viewers in the country.
  • Instagram: India and the U.S. both have estimated Instagram audiences of 140 million active users. The majority of these users are men and the largest user group are aged 18-24.
  • Facebook: The total number of Facebook users in India is expected to reach 444.2 million by 2023 – a huge increase from the social media platform’s 281 million Indian users in 2018.
  • Truecaller: WIth 140 million daily active users, the app was used to identify 29.7 billion spam calls and 8.5 billion spam SMS messages for its Indian users last year.
  • Snapchat: India is the second largest Snapchat audience worldwide with 74.35 million active users, compared to 108 million in the U.S.
  • Paytm: The digital wallet and payment company has over 450 million users

India’s mobile app industry by vertical

Mobile games

By 2021, India is projected to have 310 million active gamers in a market that will be worth $1 billion. Moreover, user penetration is expected to increase to 12.6% in 2021 and hit 16.1% by 2025. The increase in popularity of this app vertical has also accelerated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as users must spend more time indoors with less means of entertainment.

Top performing mobile games in India on Android

The best performing mobile games in India span a variety of sub-verticals from battle royale to casual games. Here are the five highest grossing games and what they offer.

  • Garena Free Fire – The Cobra: This is a battle royale game that offers 10-minute games where users play against 49 other players. In 2019, “Garena Free Fire – The Cobra” became the most downloaded mobile game worldwide. The game has over 500 million installs in India.
  • Coin Master: This is a free-to-play casual mobile game by Moon Active. Users can build their village in a single-player experience. Coin Master has over 100 million installs in India.
  • Call of Duty — Mobile: As a mobile addition to the “COD (Call of Duty”) franchise, this is a free-to-play shooter game developed by TiMi Studios. This franchise game has over 100 million installs in India.
  • Teen Patti by Octro – Indian Poker Card Game: With over 50 million installs, this is an online card game where users can play a poke style that originated in India.
  • eFootball PES 2021: This is a soccer game tied to the popular PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) franchise by KONAMI. Users can play real-time online matches and develop their squad over time. The game has over 50 million installs in india.

E-commerce apps

The e-commerce market is rapidly growing, with The Times of India announcing that mobile commerce grew 800% over the last year. When asked by Digiday about the increase in online transactions, Raj Dhamodharan, group head of emerging payments for Asia Pacific at MasterCard, said,  “Retail is taking off in a big way, led by Amazon and a few big local brands. We believe there are 40 million smartphones in India. And where there is connectivity, brands get friendly toward that channel and commerce follows.” Dhamonharan also notes that with emerging markets such as India and China, growth starts with travel and branches out to retail.

Fitness apps

As more users are unable to use the gym due to the Covid-19 pandemic, fitness apps have seen an increase in installs and usage. The result is a 40% increase in time spent on weight loss and fitness apps and twice as many active users. The same study by conversation media platform Bobble.AI, which collected data from over a million users, showed a 50% increase in time spent in-app. One of the apps to benefit was Healthifyme, an Indian digital health and wellness platform. Healthifyme co-founder, Tushar Vasisht, said, “we’re seeing a 40% increase in subscriptions and organic growth has gone up by 25%. Over 25% of new users use the hand wash tracker – a feature we added immediately after Covid-19.”

News apps

News apps in India have found their niche by offering different formats to share news to a wide audience. It is also smart to launch news apps in India in several languages to reach a wider audience and get ahead of the curve. With this in mind, here are four popular news apps that developed new ways to share breaking news with their Indian audience.

Popular news apps in India

  • Inshorts: This app curates news from multiple national and international sources and creates a summary in sixty words or less. The app is personalized for user interests and available in English and Hindi.
  • TOI: This is the official news app for The Times of India, covering national and international news. It is available in several languages and offers offline reading.
  • Dailyhunt: This content and news aggregator app provides news content in 14 languages, with 208 million monthly active users.
  • JioNews: This is another breaking news app with TV streaming and mobile updates. The app is available in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Urdu Bangla, Marathi and Assamese.
  • Knappily: This current affairs app presents an overview of popular news stories. Knappily – which stands for KNowledge APP daily – has a unique approach to sharing information. Users get a breakdown of the who, what, where and how of each story so that they have a sufficient starting point even without prior knowledge of the story as it unfolds.

Dating apps

International dating apps have had to adapt to the Indian market. Tinder entered the market in 2016, followed by OkCupid and Bumble in 2018. Melissa Hobley, global CMO of OkCupid, told Forbes, “What makes India different is that we have a generation of young women who are changing things by saying, ‘I want to decide who I’m with.’” With 50% of the market share, dating apps by Indian developers are also performing well by marketing themselves as a means to find long-term relationships. This gives them the edge of their competitors who are synonymous with casual dating. A great example of this trend is Aisle, the Indian dating app focused on finding a life partner. The Bengaluru-based dating app recently raised an undisclosed amount in pre-Series A funding to enter Tier II markets across the country.

Fintech apps

India is among the fastest growing fintech markets in the world, with more than $10 million invested in fintech companies over the last four years. This can be attributed to a large skilled workforce and a proficient technological ecosystem to support financial services. The highest grossing fintech apps in India include Google Pay, PhonePe, Paytm and YONO SBI.

If you found this guide useful, you may also be interested in our guide “How not to fail in Asia.” You can also read how super-apps will shape the global market, here.

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