Udupi, besides being a pilgrimage destination in Karnataka, is also home to Robosoft Technologies, an IT company founded in 1996 that provides product development services on Macintosh OS. Today, the company has diversified into providing products and services on the mobile platform, creating mobile apps for media companies such as Viacom18, NDTV, Times of India, Conde Nast, Sony LIV or PayTM.
CIO Magazine spoke to Rohith Bhat, MD and CEO, Robosoft Technologies, and Rakesh Tiwari, VP-Business Development on what makes them stay relevant in 2015.
From 1996 to 2015, what do you think has changed in the market in terms of competition, business expectations, and technology?
Rohith: Back in 1996, Apple was a struggling company. We thought if the company came out of its troubles and turned around, it would do wonders. That’s exactly what happened.
Steve Jobs’ re-entry galvanized the company and we rode that wave of growth. We worked with many of Apple’s partners across the globe. The introduction of iPhone and App Store in 2007 changed everything again, both in terms of demand and competition. There is competition from startups as well as established players. Apps have moved away from simple alarms to complicated projects which involve strategy, planning, complex prototyping, design intricacies and marketing. So it is a more complex, integrated approach now.
How have your service offerings changed in the last decade and a half?
Rohith: Till a few years ago, we were focusing on engineering alone and too much focus was given to the desktop. We used to port a lot of PC games to Mac and develop drivers. Now our offerings are in three areas: Strategy, design and engineering. In terms of segments, we focus on consumer mobility, enterprise mobility, and games and entertainment.
Which is the bigger problem, distribution (of apps) or marketing?
Rohith: Thanks to App Store and Play Store, distribution is not as much an issue as the ‘discovery.’ With millions of apps on the stores, it is getting increasingly difficult for brand owners and app developers to have their apps easily discovered by end consumers. Marketing is the solution to such a problem and it is both a science and an art. Social media, PR and other action-driven marketing techniques can be used to help app discovery and installs.
A lot has been said about Robosoft for being based out of Udupi. Did you ever feel unsure about your base location?
Rohith: We started our initial operations from Mumbai but moved to Udupi (my home town) primarily because of the easy availability of engineering talent. I would be lying if I say that we were not expecting any issues at all. Finding talent in areas like design, UI/UX, marketing is easier in metro cities which drove our presence outside Udupi too. Today, we have offices in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Palo Alto, and London. Our Mumbai office is a full service design unit with experienced talent from the creative industries. It also houses a dedicated team for enterprise mobility.
What are some of the challenges that CIOs face around enterprise mobility?
In the enterprise segment, addressing security issues, thanks to BYOD, is a challenge. We also believe that in enterprises mobile solutions are moving from a vertical, single app approach to a horizontal approach, where many departments within an enterprise need specialist mobile solutions. Apart from these, we feel enterprises need strategic inputs in app discovery and re-engaging with users.
Is security a big concern since many companies still treat it as a tactical piece instead of a strategic piece?
Rakesh: Yes, security is a big concern, especially since data is a critical asset for all companies, irrespective of their domain. With SMAC playing an increasingly important role in mobility, enterprises need to partner with companies who have the required domain knowledge and expertise.
What about the stiff competition from a growing number of startups in the market? What's your key differentiator?
Rohith: In our view, certain kinds of companies (big enterprises, mainly) seek experience, expertise and scale in their mobile app partners. Innovation and nimble-footedness can be an issue if you are too big. I think we are in the sweet spot of neither too big nor too small.